NUMBER 408 1952
Question. Recently a matter involving a great injustice to a minor female was presented to my office. However, after an extensive investigation, we are under some doubt as to whether an attorney can ethically represent the injured party in an action for damages; and whether by doing so, said attorney might not be committing a felony. I am therefore respectfully requesting an opinion from your Committee.
The facts are as follows: A minor unmarried female became pregnant after relations with an unmarried male, aged twenty-three. Immediately thereafter, the two parties agreed to marry. A week later, the man and his father informed the girl that unless she would undergo an abortion, the father would not consent to or permit the marriage. The son further informed her that he would adhere to his father’s wishes (the son works for his father, is financially dependent upon him and completely under his control).
The girl at first strenuously objected, but she was under great emotional stress and fear and finally succumbed to their demands, The son then gave her a diamond engagement ring which his father purchased. An abortion was thereupon performed. Immediately thereafter, the son and his father completely disassociated themselves from her and from the entire matter.
1. Can the minor female bring an action in fraud against the son and the father for the damages that she sustained or is such an action outlawed by Section 61a to 61i of the Civil Practice Act.
2. Would an attorney representing said minor female in such an action be committing a felony (Section 61e and 61g of the Civil Practice Act).
3. Assuming that it is not illegal, would it be professionally unethical for an attorney to represent said minor female in such an action.
Answer. The sections of the Civil Practice Act above referred to have abolished any right of action in this state to recover sums of money as damages for the alienation of affections, criminal conversation, seduction, or breach of contract to marry, and it is declared unlawful for any person, either as a party or attorney, or an agent or other person in behalf of either, to file or serve, cause to be filed or served, or threaten to file or serve, or to threaten to cause to be filed or served, any process or pleading in any court of the state, seeking recovery of a sum of money on any such causes of action. The penalty for violation of the provisions of the article are declared to be a felony. The article is to be liberally construed.
The Committee does not undertake to answer questions of law and is, therefore, not in a position to advise as to whether or not the action suggested in query 1 is among those outlawed by the above provisions of the Civil Practice Act.
Assuming that the proposed action is among those abolished, the answer to query 2, according to the express provisions of the statute, would be “yes.”
As to query 3, it the cause of action is not among those abolished by the provisions of the Civil Practice Act above referred to, and is not otherwise illegal (as to which we express no opinion), it would not be professionally unethical for an attorney to represent the minor female in such action.