A major theme of this blog has been the importance of ethics in the legal profession. In late March, the Volokh Conspiracy, the nation’s leading legal blog, invited Prof. Richard Painter, to guest blog about his new book, Getting the Government America Deserves: How Ethics Reform Can Make a Difference. Between 2005 and 2007, as White House Associate Counsel, Painter had served as the chief ethics lawyer for the President, White House employees, and senior nominees to Senate-confirmed positions in the Executive Branch.
The Painter posts were wide-ranging, covering matters from torture to the ethical dangers of the White House Office of Political Affairs. Painter also explained his principal role simply: “Much of the work of an ethics lawyer, or any lawyer for that matter, is giving a client advice that amounts to common sense.”
This definition of legal ethics helps illuminate ex-DA Nifong’s misconduct in the lacrosse case. It was common sense not to order the police to run an additional lineup that violated their own procedures; or to withhold exculpatory DNA evidence; or to make dozens of inflammatory public statements. But Nifong, of course, lacked an ethical core.
Other events from March:
- In elections for Duke’s Academic Council, Group of 88 members dominated in contests from the Humanities departments, while Anne (“Group of 88 for Credit”) Allison captured a slot on the Social Sciences list.
- Several high-profile members of the Group of 88—the faculty members who got a race-related issue in their own backyard so spectacularly wrong—convened a high-profile conference on . . . race in America. The party line predominated—down to the refusal to allow taping of the event, lest an audience outside Duke’s campus walls be exposed to the Group’s extremist ideas.*
- At the conference, Group member Sally Deutsch maintained that the Group’s ad—for which signatures were solicited describing it as “about the lacrosse team incident”—denied that the ad referred “to the rape accusation and Buchanan Blvd.”
- Wahneema Lubiano, scheduled to moderate a panel entitled, “Race, Gender and Sexuality: Intersections on Multiple Dimensions,” was a no-show at the conference, claiming a previous commitment in Prague.
- Michael Burch, a local man whose alleged sexual assault of a (white) Duke student didn’t arouse a peep from the Group of 88, pled guilty—after being charges with a second sexual assault while he was out on bail. Newsday ran an interview with Burch’s victim, Katie Rouse, but ignored the wildly disparate responses to the Burch attack and the lacrosse case from the Duke faculty and administration.
- In an editorial for a small suburban paper in Boston (the only type of publication that will still print her ruminations?), Wendy Murphy demanded release of “thousands of pages [that] have been withheld from public view”—without mentioning that the only elements of the case file “withheld from public view” were Crystal Mangum’s substantial psychological files.
- Roy Cooper, one of the heroes of the case, took a small lead over incumbent GOP senator Richard Burr, in a possible battle for Burr’s seat. The N&O reported that Cooper is seriously considering making a bid.
- The lacrosse case got a mention in John Grisham’s latest novel.
- William Bowen continues to defend his widely discredited report on the administration’s initial response to the case—a document that faulted the administration not for anything that would cost Duke millions of dollars in settlements and legal fees, but for being insufficiently sensitive to “diversity.”
Finally: While I realize it’s no match for the perpetually forthcoming Like Being Mugged by a Metaphor, my latest book was published March 31 by Cambridge University Press. The book, an analysis of the 1964 presidential campaign, has its website here; the amazon link is here.
[Update, Monday, 6.04pm: A commenter passes along the news that Duke allowed NPR to broadcast brief excerpts of the conference--raising the question of whether Group members engaged in ideological screening in deciding who could and could not tape the event. The commenter also passes along the more welcome news that Group organizers have relented and allowed the posting of the conference at itunes. No word yet on when the "Shut Up and Teach" forum will be posted to the itunes site; a search indicated no presence of the panel.]