Tag Archives: conflicts of interest

A Proposed Enforceable Campaign Pledge To Reject Corruption

OathRichard Painter is a distinguished, ethics-savvy attorney of a progressive bent who teaches legal ethics and who is a frequent contributor to the Legal Ethics Forum. He has formulated a legally enforceable candidate’s pledge requiring a member of Congress, once elected,not to accept campaign contributions except from natural persons residing in a congressional district and a promise, after leaving Congress, not to accept a lobbyist job that would entail lobbying former colleagues in the Capitol.

Painter was inspired to do so, he says, when contacted former student  who is managing the John Denney for Congress Campaign in Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District.  Denny wants to take such a pledge, and Painter obliged with the document below.

What do you think? Continue reading

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“CSI” Ethics: Now THAT Was An Unethical Fictional Lawyer…

CSIWow. That was one unethical lawyer on CBS’s “CSI” last night, and I mean even before we found out that he had stolen a vile of an Ebola-like virus and used it to murder a doctor, almost setting off a viral epidemic in Las Vegas. (Gee, I wonder where the writers got the idea for that story? See, we don’t have to argue about politicians causing panic over Ebola: the entertainment media is way, way ahead of them.) Among the lawyer’s ethical transgressions:

1. He set out to use his law degree to gain access, through employment, to a company he blamed for allowing a deadly virus to wipe out his family in South America. Needless to say, this is a blatant conflict of interest, indeed, the worst one for a lawyer I have ever heard of in fact or fiction. He wanted to represent a corporate client so he could destroy it.  This is a clear breach of Model Rule 1.7:

(b), a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict of interest exists if:

(2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by… a personal interest of the lawyer.

Now, that conflict could be waived if the client were fully informed of the fact that its lawyer wanted to destroy it, and the client didn’t mind. That seems unlikely to me.

2. When it looked like his murder was going to set off a deadly epidemic, the lawyer decided to let CSI know that his client the biotech firm had lied about none of its supply of the virus being missing. He knew it was missing, because he had stolen it. The failure of a lawyer to remedy a client’s lie to police about a crime isn’t unethical in a criminal defense setting, but it is unethical if the lawyer would be aiding in another crime by doing so, which was the case here. Moreover, he is involved in the crime, unknown to his client. This would be a disqualifying conflict even if the one described above didn’t exist.

3, He also has an obligation under the ethics rules (Model Rule 1.4) to inform his client about matters relevant to the representation that the client needs to know, like “By the way, about that missing vial of deadly hemorrhagic virus you don’t want to tell the police about? I took it.”

4. THEN, he surreptitiously taped an employee and representative of the company who thought he was also representing her (if he wasn’t, he has an ethical obligation to make that clear—it’s called a “corporate Miranda warning.”) While it is legal in Nevada to secretly tape a conversation you are participating in, it is virtually never ethical for  a lawyer to do this with a client (That’s misrepresentation, violating Rule 8.4 in Nevada) , who is assured that her communications with her lawyer will be privileged, and held in strictest confidence under the attorney-client relationship.

5. Now, if the reason for the lawyer making the recording and handing it over to Ted Danson had been what CSI first assumed it was—that he was trying to save lives in imminent danger and deemed the revelation of a client confidence the only way to prevent it—he would have some support in the ethics rules, for there is an exception to the duty of confidentiality that can justify that.*  That wasn’t his motive, however, at least not all of it. He was also trying to make sure that the company—his client, which he was trying to destroy in revenge for his family’s deaths—was blamed for the virus that he had released. He had no justification for violating Rule 1.6, which says that a lawyer must keep client confidences.

6. Also, since he was representing both the employee he secretly taped and the company itself, he would have been obligated to report what she told him—evidence of a crime implicating the company–to his corporate client before reporting it to authorities, so the corporate client could report the lost vial itself, or at least have that option. If the attorney was going to exercise the “death or serious bodily injury” exception, he needed to tell the client that, too.

Yes, this was a very unethical lawyer.

Then there was that killing part…

* There was no reason to make the recording at all. This was a lame plot manipulation by “CSI.” Danson and his team used the biological residue on the recorder to prove that the same person who made the recording also stole the vial. But the lawyer could have just told the police about what his client admitted regarding the missing vial. No recording was necessary.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions

Curse You, Steven Bochco!

Uh-uh-uh! Love and forensics don't mix!

Uh-uh-uh! Love and forensics don’t mix!

TV writer and producer Steven Bochco, in “Hill Street Blues” and subsequent creations, liked to show the justice system flourishing despite every segment of it having romances and sex with every other segment: judges sleeping with lawyers, associates sleeping with partners, police officers having sex with defense attorneys, paralegals boinking supervising attorneys…oh, the combinations were endless. David Kelley, he of “The Practice,” “Boston Legal” and “Ally McBeal,” took the theme to new heights and depths, and “The Good Wife” has ploughed some new ground—sex with investigators!—too.

It doesn’t work, you know. None of it. These all create conflicts of interest, and are either ethical breaches or the doorway to them. Mustn’t have sex where you have a duty to seek justice rather than nookie.

Now from California comes news of another unfortunate coupling. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has moved to dismiss a 1989 cold case homicide of Cathy Zimmer, filed earlier this year against her husband and his brother. It seems that the prosecutor originally assigned to the case had “an undisclosed and improper relationship” with the case’s forensic lab technician. This is the kind of thing you would see if Steven Bochco wrote “CSI.”

District Attorney Jeff Rosen explained: “We have an absolute and ethical duty to enforce the laws in a just and objective manner and without regard to sympathy, bias or prejudice for or against any particular party. We offer our deepest apologies to the family of the victim, but based on the totality of the circumstances, we simply cannot proceed without taking the time to reexamine and reevaluate the case in order to ensure we have not violated the rights of the accused, nor compromised the integrity of the criminal justice system.”

I assume—I hope—that there isn’t as much cross-pollinating in the labs, law firms, courtrooms and police precincts as Hollywood seems to think.

__________________________

Pointer and Source: ABA Journal

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture

Dear Political Blogs: Be As Partisan As You Like, But Don’t Make Your Readers Stupid

It's a coincidence that Monsanto had the better legal argument each time, yes. Is that what you mean?

It’s a coincidence that Monsanto had the better legal argument each time, yes. Is that what you mean?

It pains me greatly when a Facebook friend (and real friend too) posts something from a right-wing or left-wing website that is ignorant and misleading, as if she has something enlightening to share. Then I am forced to point out that 1) the post was written by someone pretending to have knowledge he did not; 2) those agreeing with him and assuming he had a valid point are hanging out with like-minded partisans who reinforce each others’ happy misconceptions, and 3) that the lawyers who cheer on conclusions that can only be explained by the fact that the concluder can’t spell law, much less under stand it. This typically loses two to ten names off my Facebook friends list. Well, too bad. They should be ashamed of themselves.

The case I have in mind: a site called “Forward Progressive: Forward Thinking for Progressive Action”—hmmm, I think it is a progressive site!—attacked Clarence Thomas for his participation in the recent SCOTUS decision in Bowman v. Monsanto. The Court ruled for Monsanto in a patent case against farmers in a matter involving the reproduction of products whose patents have expired. To Dyssa Fuchs, the writer for Forward Progressive in this case, Thomas had a clear conflict of interest and should have recused himself.

She cites the judicial code, she cites the U.S. statutes, she–of course—cites her belief that Monsanto is evil, and of course, like all good progressives, she hates Thomas, who has the effrontery to be both a hard-core conservative and black. The fact is, however, that she has no idea what she is talking about. Thomas had no conflict of interest in this case, nor does he have an “appearance of impropriety” problem because someone determined to prove that he is corrupt doesn’t understand what improprieties or judicial conflicts are, or for that matter, what lawyers do. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet

7 Ethics Observations On The Incredibly Unethical Charlo Greene

KTVA (Alaska) reporter Charlo Greene reported on the Alaska Cannabis Club, medical marijuana business, during Sunday night’s broadcast without telling the station of the viewers that she owned it. As soon as the segment was over, she announced that she was the owner, and said,

“Now everything you’ve heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all of my energy toward fighting for freedom and fairness, which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska. And as for this job, well, not that I have a choice but, fuck it, I quit.”

Then she walked off the set.

How unethical is Charlo Greene? Let me count the ways: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Journalism & Media, Professions, Workplace

The Kansas Senate Race Ethics Disgrace: Who Can You Trust?

Nobody, apparently.

Welcome to Kansas.

Welcome to Kansas.

The Kansas U.S. Senate race demonstrates why so many Americans tune out politics, spit on both parties, and simply assume that there is no way to avoid being governed by knaves, cheaters and fools.

If you haven’t been following this dispiriting  embarrassment, I commend and envy you. The election is considered a crucial one that could decide control of the Senate, where the Democrats currently have a majority that looks shaky at best. The Kansas Republican incumbent, Pat Roberts, appeared beatable in the GOP primary, and he was in a tough three-way race in the election. Trailing in the polls, the Democratic nominee, Chad Taylor, pulled out of the race, leaving Roberts to run against an independent, Greg Orman, who has belonged at various times to both parties,  who wants to leave his real loyalties secret for now and who looks like he might beat Roberts. The Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach, claimed that under the law, Taylor couldn’t withdraw with the letter he wrote for that purpose, and had to stay on the ballot. This week, Kobach’s position was rejected by the Kansas Supreme Court.

This account just skims the surface of the real sludge in this bi-partisan cesspool. Consider: Continue reading

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The Third Circuit Rejects Judicial Immunity In The Case Of An Unethical One Man Justice System

crazy-judgeAs I predicted at the time, many readers became upset at the spectacle of judges declaring other, clearly unethical judges immune from civil suit as a result of the judicial immunity doctrine. They will be cheered, then, by this unusual decision by the Third Circuit in a decidedly odd case out of New Jersey.

The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a civil rights suit could process against Municipal Judge Louis DiLeo of Linden, New Jersey, who was not reappointed to his post after the incident sparking the action. The lower court judge had denied DiLeo’s motions to dismiss on the grounds of absolute judicial immunity  the 3rd Circuit agreed, saying that the plaintiff had made  a plausible claim that DiLeo’s actions “went beyond legal error, such that he was no longer functioning in his judicial capacity,” the appeals court said in the its opinion . Continue reading

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Filed under Law & Law Enforcement, Rights