Sex with client? Feuding lawyers get personal in wrongful-death case

 Attorneys Karen Koehler, left, and John Henry Browne are battling in court and in real life. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

Attorneys Karen Koehler, left, and John Henry Browne are battling in court and in real life. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

SEATTLE TIMES

December 5, 2016
By Lewis Kamb
Twitter @lewiskamb
lkamb@seattletimes.com

A battle between two prominent Seattle lawyers now includes a claim that John Henry Browne has had an “inappropriately intimate relationship” with his client, an accused killer. Browne denies it and dismisses opposing attorney Karen Koehler’s accusations as “rumors and gossip.”

An already nasty battle between celebrity defense attorney John Henry Browne and another prominent Seattle lawyer has turned even nastier, with each filing a flurry of new personal allegations against the other in King County Superior Court. 

Fresh off scoring a legal victory against Browne, attorney Karen Koehler is now contending that Browne, who is opposing her in a high-profile wrongful-death case, is engaged in an “inappropriately intimate relationship” with his client, accused killer Tracy (Nessl) McNamara.

 

Koehler claims Browne’s relationship with McNamara has clouded his professional judgment, fueling “increasingly erratic personal attacks” on Koehler and prompting an unsuccessful defamation lawsuit brought against Koehler and her firm on behalf of McNamara. A judge tossed out that lawsuit last month, ruling it had no merit.

Now, Koehler and her attorney, Bruce Johnson, want the judge to impose sanctions against Browne for what they claim was Browne’s malicious attempt to bully Koehler through a frivolous suit.

“I believe that Mr. Browne filed this lawsuit for the improper purposes of retaliation, harassment and intimidation,” Koehler wrote in a sworn declaration. “I believe the evidence demonstrates that Mr. Browne’s professional independent judgment has been significantly impacted by the nature of his relationship with Ms. Nessl.”