Archive for the ‘Legal Ethics’ Category
posted by Frank Pasquale
Dustin A. Zacks has posted a fascinating article on the role of “foreclosure mills” in bringing a more corporate, bottom-line oriented mentality to law firms:
The recent housing crisis increased demand for attorneys to process foreclosures through state courts. [High volume foreclosure firms developed; they] differ in makeup from traditional large law firms. Notable characteristics of these foreclosure firms include lenders and servicers’ relentless demand for increased speed and low costs, lack of firm-specific capital at foreclosure law firms, and a factory-like atmosphere of legal practice.
[As they developed] the fastest and cheapest legal services available. . . .these firms consistently generated complaints about their conduct, including questions about their ethical decision-making and about the veracity of the pleadings and documents they filed. . . . The Article accordingly examines the curiously muted reaction from state bar associations, judges, and state legislators.
posted by Deven Desai
Anyone interested in where legal practice may beheaded should check out ReInvent Law Silicon Valley 2013 on March 8 at teh Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA (disclosure I am a speaker). The conference is devoted to law, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship in the legal services industry. Dan Katz gave and excellent talk at the mid-year AALS conference. He talked about how automated system, machine learning, and more are defeating outsourcing and changing the face of legal practice. I nodded as what he said mapped to what I learned while I was at Google. In 2008 I started writing about problems with the structure of legal education. Those issues are now with us in full force. I think Dan and this project get to issues within the legal industry that may make the what about firm jobs question obsolete (which it may already be for a host of reasons) but present opportunities going forward.
Here is how he sums up the idea:
At all price points, the legal services market is rapidly changing and this disruption represents peril & possibility. This meeting is about the possibility … about the game changers who are already building the future of this industry. This is a 1 day event featuring 40 speakers in a high energy format with specific emphasis on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. It will inspire you to consider all of the possibilities.
In that Silicon Valley way, it will be a blitz of 40 speakers covering LegalTechStartUp, Lawyer Regulation, Business of Law, Quantitative Legal Prediction, Design, 3D Printing, Driverless Cars, Legal Education, Legal Information Engineering, New Business Models, Lean Lawyering, Legal Supply Chain, Project Management, Technology Aided Access to Justice, Augmented Reality, Legal Process Outsourcing, Big Data, New Markets for Law, Virtual Law Practice, Information Visualization, E-Discovery, Legal Entrepreneurship, Legal Automation … and much more.
Tickets are Free but registration is required.
Please feel free to sign up today.
posted by Deven Desai
One of the people I follow on Google+ posted the TED Talk by Margaret Heffernan. Her desire for better training on how to challenge authority is laudable, but I think misses that corporate and other institutional cultures often squash and punish those who speak out. Her basic point is strong: seeking out those who will challenge your views and avoiding echo chambers is the best way to ensure your ideas are solid. Dr. Heffernan tells about a researcher who managed to stand up to established medical practice and change it. She tells of a colleague who managed to voice concern at his biotech company who was worried about a new product but afraid to challenge the status quo. When he did, he found that others shared his belief. He was a hero whistleblower of sorts. The later example is quite rare. Just think of Enron and the host of other debacles. I agree that it takes courage to challenge, but a corporate culture that does not punish free thinkers is important too. As the literature on scenario planning shows, sustaining a group that is permitted to think about and challenge company goals is quite difficult. And that is for a group designed to advance corporate profits. Finding room those who would, out of loyalty to a company, ask questions about plans is a deeper problem. The current focus on teamwork, loyalty, execution, speed, and results no matter what the consequences, means that lip service to openness, out of the box thinking, and pick any other management cliche you want, rule so much that it is no surprise that 85% of managers fear speaking up as Dr. Heffernan notes. So I praise the idea, but think in addition to training people to challenge, we need to build a culture of questioning.
The Yale Law Journal Online: “The Gang of Thirty-Three: Taking the Wrecking Ball to Client Loyalty” and “In Defense of a Reasoned Dialogue About Law Firms and Their Sophisticated Clients”
posted by Yale Law Journal
The Yale Law Journal Online has published two essays on legal ethics: The Gang of Thirty-Three: Taking the Wrecking Ball to Client Loyalty by Lawrence Fox, and In Defense of a Reasoned Dialogue About Law Firms and Their Sophisticated Clients, a response to Fox’s essay by James W. Jones and Anthony E. Davis.
In The Gang of Thirty-Three, Lawrence Fox reviews the proposed “sophisticated client” amendments to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Thirty-three General Counsels at AmLaw 100 law firms submitted the proposal to the American Bar Association, requesting that some Model Rules obligations be adjusted or lessened in relationships with “sophisticated clients.” Fox examines the suggested changes and argues that they compromise the lawyer’s most important fiduciary duty to the client. As Fox writes, lawyers must safeguard their clients’ entitlements to loyalty if they “should be entitled” to call themselves professionals at all.
James W. Jones and Anthony E. Davis respond in In Defense of a Reasoned Dialogue About Law Firms and Their Clients, arguing that the current Model Rules are outdated and no longer reflect the needs of modern law firms and their increasingly global clientele. As people who were “directly involved in the preparation of the Law Firm Proposals,” Jones and Davis offer insight into the motivations for the proposals and respond to Fox’s critique.
Lawrence Fox, The Gang of Thirty-Three: Taking the Wrecking Ball to Client Loyalty, 121 YALE L.J. ONLINE 567 (2012), http://yalelawjournal.org/2012/03/27/fox.html.
James W. Jones & Anthony E. Davis, In Defense of a Reasoned Dialogue About Law Firms and Their Sophisticated Clients, 121 YALE L.J. ONLINE 589 (2012), http://yalelawjournal.org/2012/03/27/jones&davis.html.
posted by Derek Bambauer
Ever-brilliant Web comic The Oatmeal has a great piece about piracy and its alternatives. (The language at the end is a bit much, but it is the character’s evil Jiminy Cricket talking.) It mirrors my opinion about Major League Baseball’s unwillingness to offer any Internet access to the postseason, which is hard on those of us who don’t own TVs (or subscribe to cable). Even if you don’t agree with my moral claims, it’s obvious that as the price of lawful access diverges from the price of unlawful access (which is either zero, or the expected present value of a copyright suit, which is darn near zero), infringement goes up.
So, if you want to see Game of Thrones (and I do), your options are: subscribe to cable plus HBO, or pirate. I think the series rocks, but I’m not paying $100 a month for it. If HBO expects me to do so, it weakens their moral claim against piracy.
Unconvinced? Imagine instead that HBO offers to let you watch Game of Thrones for free – but the only place on Earth you can view the series is in the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. You’re located in rural Iowa? Well, you’ve no cause for complaint! Fly to LA! I suspect that translating costs into physical costs makes the argument clearer: HBO charges not only for the content, but bundles it with one particular delivery medium. If that medium is unavailable to you, or unaffordable, you’re out of luck.
Unless, of course, you have broadband, and can BitTorrent.
As a minimum, I plan not to support any SOPA-like legislation until the content industries begin to offer viable Internet-based delivery mechanisms that at least begin to compete with piracy…
Cross-posted at Info/Law.
February 22, 2012 at 12:21 pm Posted in: Architecture, Culture, Current Events, Cyber Civil Rights, Cyberlaw, DRM, Innovation, Intellectual Property, Legal Ethics, Media Law, Movies & Television, Politics, Technology, Web 2.0 Print This Post 55 Comments
posted by Lawrence Cunningham
Many are to blame for the financial crisis and plenty of reports and analyses have been written detailing assorted causes and assigning responsibility. Overlooked in accepted versions of events are two fateful decisions and their context: Eliot Spitzer’s overzealous drive to oust Hank Greenberg from heading AIG, and Arthur Levitt’s governance reforms implemented at AIG shortly thereafter.
The ouster of Greenberg and transformation of AIG are pivotal events because before the ouster and reforms, AIG wrote few of the credit default swaps that became the centerpiece of the crisis, but wrote increasingly risky and unhedged swaps thereafter. Many informed people consider it extremely unlikely or nearly impossible to imagine that, had AIG still been run by Greenberg under its traditional governance structures, the swap business at AIG could have gotten so out of hand.
In that telling, Spitzer’s aggressive tactics to have Greenberg ousted and Levitt’s ambitious reforms were at least indirect contributing causes of the crisis and its severity. The actions and ideas therefore deserve greater scrutiny than they have been given.
In Spitzer’s case, it’s important to highlight how he took many steps that were at least dubious as a matter of prosecutorial ethics; in Levitt’s case, the reforms were extreme departures from traditional corporate governance. Potential lessons include the importance of prosecutors not overstepping their bounds and the value of adhering to some traditions in the development of corporate governance. Read the rest of this post »
posted by Stephen Galoob
Lawyers in Practice: Ethical Decision Making in Context, edited by Leslie C. Levin & Lynn Mather. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 2012. pp. 370. $39.00
What is the best way to study the ethical world of lawyers? On a “top-down” approach, this study proceeds in two steps: first, we start with the rules of legal ethics (or, perhaps, the moral, legal or political principles that underlie those rules); second, we apply these rules and principles to particular cases that lawyers confront.
The infirmities of the top-down approach are a recurring theme of the essays collected in Lawyers in Practice. Most of the authors in this collection either champion or practice an alternative method, one that is inductive, or “bottom-up.” On this method, when studying the ethical world of lawyers, we should first examine how real-world lawyers confront real-life ethical challenges. In analyzing these responses, we should consider a variety of factors other than the rules or principles of legal ethics that drive lawyers to act in the ways that they do.
Thus, we can restate our opening question more precisely. When studying legal ethics, should we be top-downers, bottom-uppers, or both? Which is the more fundamental task: justifying the rules of legal ethics or explaining how lawyers behave when confronted with ethical challenges? Lawyers in Practice makes these broader questions salient. In this review, I want to offer a chastened case for a top-down approach, while recognizing the important (but ultimately complementary) role that bottom-up methods can play in studying the ethical world of lawyers.
Before exploring this broader topic, here are some vitals on the book. Lawyers in Practice is a collection of essays that were originally presented at a conference at the University of Buffalo Law School. Levin and Mather provide an introductory essay and short epilogue summarizing some main themes, and essays by David Wilkins and Elizabeth Chambliss explore some methodological issues for the sociolegal study of lawyers’ ethics.
posted by Stanford Law Review
The Stanford Law Review Online has just published an Essay by Yale’s Stephen L. Carter entitled The Iraq War, the Next War, and the Future of the Fat Man. He provides a retrospective on the War in Iraq and discusses the ethical and legal implications of the War on Terror and “anticipatory self-defense” in the form of targeted killings going forward. He writes:
Iraq was war under the beta version of the Bush Doctrine. The newer model is represented by the slaying of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen deemed a terror threat. The Obama Administration has ratcheted the use of remote drone attacks to unprecedented levels—the Bush Doctrine honed to rapier sharpness. The interesting question about the new model is one of ethics more than legality. Let us assume the principal ethical argument pressed in favor of drone warfare—to wit, that the reduction in civilian casualties and destruction of property means that the drone attack comports better than most other methods with the principle of discrimination. If this is so, then we might conclude that a just cause alone is sufficient to justify the attacks. . . . But is what we are doing truly self-defense?
Read the full article, The Iraq War, the Next War, and the Future of the Fat Man by Stephen L. Carter, at the Stanford Law Review Online.
January 16, 2012 at 1:13 pm Tags: anticipatory self-defense, Current Events, drones, iraq war, president bush, president obama, targeted killings, UAVs Posted in: International & Comparative Law, Law Rev (Stanford), Legal Ethics, Military Law, Technology Print This Post 5 Comments
posted by Kyle Graham
Not long ago, I was asked to sign a petition, circulating among law professors, that condemns the recent pepper-spraying of protesters at the University of California-Davis. This invitation rekindled my interest in the origins of these petitions.
Law professors qua law professors have become engaged in topical public controversies since the early 1900s. Some law professors spoke out about the Sacco-Vanzetti trial, and many professors took well-publicized positions on Franklin Roosevelt’s court-packing plan. I am unfamiliar with any widely distributed petition as to either event, however. (Although the AALS did initiate, only to abandon, a poll of law faculties designed to gauge their support or opposition to FDR’s plan.)
The first petition I have found that specifically requested the support of American law faculties circulated almost exactly 73 years ago, in early December 1938. This petition was prepared and distributed by telegram shortly after the Kristallnacht pogroms, and read as follows:
Faculty of Law [Institution, Location]
The Faculty of Law of the University of Amsterdam invites you kindly to inform them by telegram before December ten whether your Faculty of Law would be willing to second the following resolution. The invitation being wired today to all Faculties of Law in the British Empire, United States of America, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland. The Faculties of Law of the Universities mentioned below noting with sorrow and dismay that in some countries innumerable people are being persecuted and tormented on account of their faith, race or political convictions and that particularly in the so called Concentration Camps innocent people are without legal procedure subjected to inhuman treatment considering that the basic principles of justice are thus insufferably violated voice their protest against this violation in view of their duty to uphold the principles of justice and the rights of man appeal to the conscience of mankind to support them in this protest and decide to publish this resolution and to communicate it to their respective governments.
The telegram, which on its face requested the support of each contacted institution (as opposed to the endorsement of individual professors) met with a range of responses. Some American law faculties (including those at Yale, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the University of California-Berkeley, and the University of Colorado) signed on to the petition. At Harvard, it was agreed that individual professors could endorse the petition, if they so chose, but that no such backing would come from the general faculty, speaking as a whole and for the institution generally.
Today, it’s assumed that individual professors, as opposed to the institutions where they work, represent the proper signatories of a petition such at the one circulated by the University of Amsterdam law faculty. Were assumptions different, one presumes that there would be a lot fewer petitions in circulation. Plus faculty meetings would become much longer.
posted by Gerard Magliocca
I’m curious to know what folks think of this hypothetical. Suppose somebody writes a law review article with an insightful and original analysis of an issue. When that issue comes before a court, the court adopts the logic of the article and closely tracks its reasoning in the opinion (in a way that’s pretty obvious), but does not cite the article. Is that wrong?
I think we’d all agree that if a student or an academic did this, it would be plagiarism. True for a court as well? One reason I ask is that courts often lift passages from briefs without attribution (John Marshall famously did this in M’Culloch v. Maryland) and nobody seems to care. Likewise, I don’t know of any examples of “judicial plagiarism” where the professor in question complained and got a court to amend its opinion and acknowledge that a particular idea that was passed off as original was, in fact, not. More broadly, one might say that all that matters is that the law gets stated correctly, not who gets the credit, especially as the professor can always write another paper that takes the credit.
posted by Sarah Waldeck
Depending on whom you speak with, CLE is either: (1) a necessary means of ensuring that lawyers remain current on the practice of law or (2) an endeavor primarily designed to generate revenue for state bar associations. Do proponents of the latter description have more ammunition because most state bars allow attorneys to earn at least some percentage of required CLE via video that streams to a personal computer? At least one state requires lawyers to click at regular intervals, but in many others lawyers just stream and then print a certificate at the end of the video. To quote one site that sells online CLE, the format is advantageous because it is “available 24/7,” “eliminates travel and travel-related expenses,” and can be “viewed from the couch.”
Is it too cynical to suggest that the format also allows attorneys to cook dinner while the video is streaming to an empty room upstairs? Of course lawyers who are sitting through a live presentation can find plenty of ways to distract themselves, but social conventions usually dictate that they cannot make themselves entirely absent, either actually or metaphorically. Does the decision to allow online CLE demonstrate the faith that state bars have in their attorneys to do what is right, or is it an indication that providing education is secondary to the bars’ other concerns?
posted by Taunya Banks
Recently the New York Times carried a front page story about an eighth grade girl who foolishly took a nude picture of herself with her cell phone and sent it to a fickle boy – sexting. The couple broke up but her picture circulated among her schools mates with a text message “Ho Alert” added by a frenemy. In less than 24 hours, “hundreds, possibly thousands, of students had received her photo and forwarded it. In short order, students would be handcuffed and humiliated, parents mortified and lessons learned at a harsh cost.” The three students who set off the “viral outbreak” were charged with disseminating child pornography, a Class C felony.
The story struck a nerve, not only with the affected community, but with the Times’ readers as well. Stories about the misuse and dangers of technology provide us with opportunities to educate our students, and us. In a Washington State sexting incident, for example, the teen charged had to prepared a public service statement warning other teens about sexting to avoid harsher criminal penalties. But the teen’s nude photo is still floating around. Information has permanence on the internet.
Few of us appreciate how readily obtainable our personal information is on the internet. Read the rest of this post »
April 3, 2011 at 2:43 pm Tags: academia, Google, Law School Posted in: Culture, Google & Search Engines, Law School (Teaching), Legal Ethics, Privacy (Gossip & Shaming), Social Network Websites, Uncategorized Print This Post No Comments
posted by Michelle Harner
I heard an interview today with a representative of a nonprofit organization that matches volunteers with organizations in need—a sort of match-maker in the volunteer context. Interestingly, the representative reported an increase in the number of available volunteers during the recession (see also here and here). She attributed this trend to two things: people who had lost their jobs wanting to keep up their skills while searching for new employment and people generally wanting to help others in need.
The report piqued my interest regarding whether the recession was having a similar, positive effect on the provision of pro bono legal services. I suspected that more people were in greater need of legal assistance as a result of the recession, which in fact turns out to be the case (see here and here). I did not know, however, whether lawyers were meeting this increased demand. I like to think we are, but the profession’s record on this point is not necessarily encouraging (see, e.g., here).
The results appear mixed. Some reports suggest that the level of pro bono activity has remained the same or increased slightly in the past few years (but see here). (For interesting perspectives on the recession and the legal profession, including pro bono legal services, see here and here.) Nevertheless, even these increased activity levels fall woefully short of the reported need. So, given high lawyer unemployment rates and the desire to better train new lawyers, why does this gap exist?
posted by Michelle Harner
One of my favorite courses to teach is Legal Profession (i.e., ethics and professionalism) because it truly is an “ah-ha” moment for many law students. I tend to believe that not many students consider the “profession” part of the “legal profession” prior to attending law school. Rather, I suspect they view law school as a means to an end—landing a lucrative job (or at least that was the case in days gone by; see here, here and here). They probably give little thought to the fact that they are preparing to join a “profession.”
I know that many even inside the legal profession question whether it remains a profession or is now just a business and all about the bottom line. (For interesting discussions of this debate, see here, here, here and here). I am very traditional in this respect, and I hold dear the notion that the law is an esteemed profession. (I particularly like Roscoe Pound’s definition of the legal profession as “a group…pursuing a learned art as a common calling in the spirit of public service—no less a public service because it may incidentally be a means of livelihood.”) And I am proud to be a member of that profession.
For this reason, I stress the nature of the profession and what it means to be a professional in the early days of Legal Profession. I often quote the Preamble of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to emphasize that a lawyer does more than serve clients. “A lawyer, as a member of the legal profession, is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.” I then use a series of hypothetical problems to work through what that triad of responsibilities means for lawyers. You can actually see the light bulb go off for some students.
posted by Danielle Citron
Although intermediaries’ services can facilitate and reinforce a citizenry’s activities, they pose dangers that work to undermine them. Consider the anonymous and pseudonymous nature of online discourse. Intermediaries permit individuals to create online identities unconnected to their legal identities. Freed from a sense of accountability for their online activities, citizens might engage in productive discourse in ways that they might not if directly correlated with their offline identities. Yet the sense of anonymity breeds destructive behavior as well. Social science research suggests that people behave aggressively when they believe that they cannot be observed and caught. Destructive online behavior spills offline, working a fundamental impairment of citizenship.
For instance, digital expressions of hatred helped inspire the 1999 shooting of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Jews in suburban Chicago by Benjamin Smith, a member of the white supremacist group World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) that promotes racial holy war. Just months before the shootings, Smith told documentary filmmaker Beverly Peterson that: “It wasn’t really ‘til I got on the Internet, read some literature of these groups that . . . it really all came together.” More recently, the Facebook group Kick a Ginger Day urged members to get their “steel toes ready” for a day of attacking individuals with red hair. The site achieved its stated goal: students punched and kicked children with red hair and dozens of Facebook members claimed credit for attacks.
Cyber hate can produce so much psychological damage as to undermine individuals’ ability to engage in public discourse. For instance, posters on a white supremacist website targeted Bonnie Jouhari, a civil rights advocate and mother of a biracial girl. They revealed Ms. Jouhari’s home address and her child’s picture. The site showed a picture of Ms. Jouhari’s workplace exploding in flames next to the threat that “race traitors” are “hung from the neck from the nearest tree or lamp post.” Posters included bomb-making instructions and a picture of a hooded Klansman holding a noose. Aside from moving four times, Ms. Jouhari and her daughter have withdrawn completely from public life; neither has a driver’s license, a voter registration card or a bank account because they don’t want to create a public record of their whereabouts.
Search engines also ensure the persistence and production of cyber hate that undermines citizens’ capability to engage in offline and online civic engagement. Because search engines reproduce information cached online, people cannot depend upon time’s passage to alleviate the damage that online postings cause. Unlike leaflets or signs affixed to trees that would decay or disappear not long after their publication, now search engines index all of the content hosted by social media intermediaries, producing it instantaneously. Read the rest of this post »
November 27, 2010 at 3:49 pm Posted in: Anonymity, Cyber Civil Rights, Cyberlaw, Google & Search Engines, Law and Inequality, Legal Ethics, Legal Theory, Politics, Psychology and Behavior, Race, Social Network Websites, Technology, Web 2.0 Print This Post 3 Comments
posted by Danielle Citron
Most naturally, social media providers and search engines see their users as consumers. As commercial enterprises, they aim to reap profits, which users help secure with advertising and information revenue. Yet they should also view their users as citizens. Because intermediaries are designed to enable public discourse, they facilitate the formation of a citizenry.
Citizenship is not simply a matter of legal status enjoyed by members of a body politic, though it serves that crucial role. It refers to one’s engagement in public life as well. Public participation is often viewed as essential for members of a democracy to form a citizenry. As John Dewey wrote, citizenship extends beyond the legal dimension to include “all of the relationships . . . involved in membership in a community.” For John Stuart Mill, citizens are individuals who develop their faculties through active engagement in public life. In this sense, citizenship “provides what other roles cannot, namely an integrative experience which brings together the multiple role activities of the contemporary person and demands that the separate roles be surveyed from a more general point of view.”
Online intermediaries provide essential tools for citizenship. Individuals rooted in our national polity connect, debate, and pursue common interests on intermediaries’ platforms. Seeing users as citizens is important for intermediaries interested in understanding what is at stake when they host and index cyber hate. This leads to the question of how intermediaries impact citizenry in the Information Age, to which I will turn in my next post.
posted by Dave Hoffman
The Mississippi Supreme Court is considering whether to require the state’s lawyers to either provide “at least 20 hours of free service to the poor each year” or buy their way out of the requirement by donating “$200 to $500″ a year in fees. The arguments for an against mandatory pro bono – whether in law schools or in practice – are familiar. Lawyers in the Mississippi make them pretty well:
Don Lacy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flowood,_Mississippi. . . lambastes the proposal as “an unprecedented and unjustifiable unilateral extension of the authority of the court.”
“Other than perhaps the priesthood, I am unaware of any profession which requires its members, as a condition of their right to practice their craft, to contribute a portion of their income to charity,” Lacy said in a letter to the court.
There are supporters, however, and Will Bardwell, a Jackson lawyer in private practice for a little more than a year, is among them.
“I understand the argument, doubtlessly voiced by many of my colleagues, that no one should be required to provide what is, in essence, community service,” Bardwell said. “Fundamentally, I agree. But the fact is that attorneys are different. That distinction exists as both an honor, and sometimes, a burden.
For what it is worth, I’m with Lacy. If the State thinks that there is a need for more and cheaper legal work for the poor, it should loosen restrictions on entry into the profession. This proposal, which increases barriers to entry and to practice, may make the problem worse.
(But see SHG)
posted by Solangel Maldonado
Sometimes I think that lawyers unfairly get a bad rap. Most lawyers work hard, comply with all of the ethical rules, and respect their clients. However, there are a few that repeatedly violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, hurting their clients and threatening the public’s trust in the legal profession. Unfortunately, they continue to practice law.
Imagine an attorney who has been admonished, reprimanded, and censured four times in a 6-year period for failing to communicate with clients and for recordkeeping violations, and who is later held ineligible to practice law for 15 months for failure to pay into the state’s Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection among other things. Imagine that this attorney (who continues to practice law during this period of ineligibility) offers discounted fees to three female bankruptcy clients and to the daughter of another client in exchange for sexual favors. (He told the daughter of a bankruptcy client who could not afford his fee that he would forgive her father’s debt if she would meet him “in a hotel room for three hours.”) You can read the rest of the stipulated facts here.
posted by Dave Hoffman
Claims of cheating by college students are increasingly common. Law schools are not immune to the problem, though it is rarely talked about. That’s true even though the likelihood of being caught is (probably) higher than in college (because one professor, not multiple RAs, do the grading) and the consequences are more dire (because cheaters, even if not expelled, should be reported to the Bar’s character and fitness board). For exams where the “game” depends on quickly uncovering information — multiple choice exams, especially when questions are copied from previous years, or closed book essays — it is my sense that cheating is on the rise. Similarly, plagiarism on long-form writing is cheaper than it used to be, and thus more common. As compared to colleges, law schools are ill-equipped to deal with these sets of problems, as they lack a tradition of centralized pedagogical coordination, and thus the resources and know-how that might enable technological solutions of cheating.
That all said, I’ve always comforted myself that if you give an issue-spotting exam that is open book, even immoral maximizing students won’t cheat. By making exams open-book, you prevent the easiest form of cheating – a student getting informational advantages over others by looking up cases or treatises. All that is left is discussion between test takers, which is prohibited by the honor code and which is a form of cheating. I tend to think that such coordination is quite rare. Though two students working together might “spot” more issues than either alone, it’s just as possible that group think will revert them to the mean answer – the easiest to see issues. Moreover, “A” answers are distinguished (mostly) not by spotting issues but by discussing them. Two students together would run a terrible risk if their discussions looked alike to the grader. Thus, open-book monster issue spotters are structurally difficult to game, and the best defense against cheaters – at least until we replace our current grading system with a computer.
posted by Tuan Samahon
Recall 1968 and the failed confirmation of Abe Fortas to be Chief Justice of the United States. President Lyndon Johnson had announced he was not seeking reelection; Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon menaced in the wings. Chief Justice Earl Warren announced his resignation—contingent upon the Senate’s confirmation of his successor—and thereby auspiciously created one last vacancy for LBJ to fill. LBJ nominated Associate Justice Abe Fortas as the inside candidate. Homer Thornberry was nominated to fill Fortas’s to-be vacated seat.
Republican Senators (encouraged quietly by candidate Nixon) together with the Dixiecrats blocked the Fortas nomination in hopes that Nixon would fill the seat with a nominee of his choice. As grounds for opposing confirmation, they cited, among other grounds, the Justice’s unusually close relationship to LBJ—an open secret in official Washington.
Under oath, Fortas decided to put the allegations to rest with this testimony: “Let me say in the first place—and make this absolutely clear—that since I have been a Justice, the President of the United States has never, directly or indirectly, approximately or remotely, talked to me about anything before the Court or that might come before the Court. I want to make that absolutely clear.”
Except, that really wasn’t the truth—far from it.