Legal Ethics

iStock_000016003404_LargeRemember when state attorneys general used to band together and take down tobacco companies? The diversified power of state actors accomplished what the centralized federal government — so easily influenced by corporate lobbyists — never could. Ascendant state power short-circuited Washington’s carefully cultivated lobbying relationship. Whether working in conjunction or individually (like in New York, where Eliot Spitzer routinely embarrassed the Feds by taking the time to actually do their jobs), state AG offices became the most important public watchdogs in the country, capable of dealing significant blows to corporate bad actors much faster than any legislature.

But the powers-that-be don’t stay on the mat for long. Biglaw lobbyists have since taken the lead in targeting AGs and zealously advocating for their clients by hobnobbing with top cops at lavish functions and political fundraising events….

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Madam Justice A. Lori Douglas

Madam Justice A. Lori Douglas

You are obliged to see the pictures to come to a conclusion. You cannot simply ignore what it is that these images depict.

Suzanne Cote, independent counsel to the Canadian Judicial Council commission investigating Justice Lori Douglas, urging the commission members to view the nude photos of Justice Douglas [link is safe for work; just detailed descriptions of the images, not actual pictures]. Douglas’s lawyer, Sheila Block, objects to further viewing of the photographs and wants them destroyed.

ShockedI want to continue practicing law.

– Connecticut attorney Ira Mayo, making a plea to avoid a five-year disbarment before disciplinary officials at a hearing last week.

This summer, as punishment for allegedly making “inappropriate sexual overtures” to his female clients and pressuring them for sex, Mayo accepted a lifetime ban on representing women, as well as a four-month suspension. Mayo was previously ordered to stop representing women in family law and domestic violence cases in 2010, but continued to do so in violation of that order. Mayo now claims he thought there would be a grace period for him to wind up his cases with women clients.


sexual-harassmentWe can argue the finer points of what is and is not sexual harassment around here, but there’s some behavior that we can all agree on. Like begging an employee for sex 78 times in an hour, or on average once every 46 seconds. Frankly, you’ve got to credit his ability to make the most of a billable hour.

We wrote about this earlier this year, when he was first slapped with a $100,000 fine and eight-month suspension for not only badgering the woman for sex, but also secretly filming her around the office. On those facts alone, it seemed like he might have deserved a longer timeout.

Now an appeals panel has reduced his suspension to a mere two months and it turns out his surreptitious recordings actually helped him….

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Righteous-IndignationThe public learned this week that the Judicial Council of the D.C. Circuit dismissed a complaint of judicial misconduct against Judge Edith Jones of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.   The order followed a year-long investigation by Special Counsel Jeffrey Bellin.  The roughly 70-page Report of the Special Committee appears nonpartisan, thorough, and fair.

The complaint stemmed from a lecture Judge Jones gave to the University of Pennsylvania Federalist Society chapter in February 2013.  Among the complainants’ claims was that, during her lecture, Judge Jones suggested she believed that members of certain races were predisposed to commit violent crimes.  With no recording of the event, witnesses disagreed about exactly what she said.  Was she talking about genetic determinism?  Or was she only referring to the objective fact that, for whatever reason, our nation’s prisoners are disproportionately black and Latino?  The subsequent independent investigation concluded that “whatever she said initially, it is clear that Judge Jones used the question-and-answer period to clarify that she did not adhere to such views,” rejecting the complaint’s version of her speech. The D.C. Circuit cleared her of all of the charges of misconduct, including this one.

When the complaint was first filed, I defended Judge Jones. Defending her was relatively easy….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “How Edith Jones Helped Prove Eric Holder Right: Lessons I Learned About Race After Defending A Judge Accused Of Racism”

Blogging TypewriterEugene Volokh points our attention to yet another bizarre copyright case, Denison v. Larkin, in which lawyer Joanne Denison argued that the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (IARDC) infringed on her copyrights by using portions of her own blog as evidence against her during a disciplinary proceeding.

Not surprisingly, the court soundly rejected this particular interpretation of copyright law….

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Judge Edith Jones

I did not say such things because I have never believed them and have never said them.

– Judge Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit, denying she made offensive comments attributed to her by an ethics complaint. A panel of federal judges dismissed the complaint, but various civil-rights groups and legal ethicists are appealing the dismissal.

Buck up, Professor. Your hero Nietzsche always says, ‘That which does not kill us makes us stronger.’

* Remember that whole Brian Leiter kerfuffle? Well he’s gone. The world (of philosophy rankings) was not ready for one as beautiful as thee. [Daily Nous]

* Before They Were Famous: Newly released documents reveal a pre-SCOTUS Justice Kagan writing memos admitting that she “really f**ked up” and “God, do I feel like an idiot.” At least she understood how she made her 1L class feel when she was a professor. [Josh Blackman's Blog]

* A lawsuit over who owns the word “how.” Can’t make this up. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* How do we know that driverless cars are going to be wonderful for human society? Because they will be absolutely horrible for lawyers and insurers. [Legal Funding Central]

* This guy explains what everyone should understand before going to law school by walking through his decision to not to go to law school despite gaining admission to some T14 heavies. He gives ATL a shout. We hear you buddy, congratulations on your decision. [Chronicle Vitae]

* A Delaware attorney sued for allegedly aiding and abetting a fraudulent emerald salvage operation. Kind of “X marks the disbarment.” [Delaware Online]

* Exxon won an arbitration and got $1.6B from cash-strapped Venezuela, but wanted $14.7B. Poor Exxon, they face so many struggles. [Bloomberg h/t Breaking Energy]

* The D.C. Bar Association is hosting a “Go Formal For Justice” event to raise money for its many programs to help, directly or indirectly, the indigent. [D.C. Bar Foundation]

One thing I remember best from law school. Professor Ron Delisle said, “Justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done.” It’s a bit of an unwieldy sentence, but it encompasses some of the most important concepts in a free society.

Like rule of law. No one is above the law.

Like transparency and independence within our justice system. Our trials are, for the most part, held in open court. We have appellate courts to review the work of judges below them. The Prime Minister can’t tell even the lowest judge how to rule on a case.

Like freedom of the press, which provides oversight and an independent voice to challenge those in power who abuse the system.

The system isn’t perfect, but it works pretty darn well most of the time.

Let me ask, how does a country built around those lofty concepts allow lawyers to regulate lawyers?

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Justice Joan Orie Melvin

* How are Nevada and Idaho officials reacting to yesterday’s Ninth Circuit ruling striking down gay marriage bans in those states, and how soon might marriages get underway? [BuzzFeed]

* In other LGBT legal news, New York City is likely to make it easier for transgender individuals to amend their birth certificates. [New York Times]

* Good news for Joan Orie Melvin, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice turned convicted felon: her unorthodox sentence has been stayed (again). [How Appealing]

* Eduardo Leite, who has led Baker & McKenzie since 2010, gets another two years at the helm of Biglaw’s biggest firm. [American Lawyer]

* Cravath associate Micaela McMurrough scores a victory in tax court for artists. [New York Times]

* The ABA has issued a new opinion addressing ethical issues raised during the sale of a law practice. [American Bar Association]

* Why do lawyers blog? Tim Baran of Rocket Matter talks to 23 of us. [Legal Productivity]

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