MENU

Legal Ethics

Law of the Jungle: Chevron in the Amazon

Professional Responsibility & Legal Education and Litigation Practice Groups Teleforum September 22, 01:00 PMFederalist Society Teleforum Conference Call

Steven Donziger, a self-styled social activist and Harvard educated lawyer, signed on to a budding class action lawsuit against multinational Texaco (which later merged with Chevron to become the third-largest corporation in America). The suit sought reparations for the Ecuadorian peasants and tribes people whose lives were affected by decades of oil production near their villages and fields. During twenty years of legal hostilities in federal courts in Manhattan and remote provincial tribunals in the Ecuadorian jungle, Mr. Donziger and Chevron’s lawyers followed fierce no-holds-barred rules. Mr. Donziger proved himself adept at influencing the media, Hollywood, and public opinion. He cajoled and coerced Ecuadorian judges on the theory that his noble ends justified any means of persuasion. And in the end, he won a $19 billion judgment against Chevon – the biggest environmental damages award in history. But the company refused to surrender or compromise. Instead, Chevron targeted Mr. Donziger personally, and its counter-attack revealed evidence of his politicking and manipulation of evidence. Suddenly the verdict, and decades of Mr. Donziger’s single-minded pursuit of the case, began to unravel.

Under Indictment: Governor Rick Perry - Podcast

Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group Podcast
John S. Baker, Jr. August 28, 2014

The recent indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry has garnered huge press attention. In an unusual alignment, commentators from both the left and the right have been highly critical of the indictment, with the New York Times editorial board calling it “the product of an overzealous prosecution.” But condemnation of the indictment has not been perfectly unanimous, and a few commentators have now come out in support of the indictment. We examined all the details on a Teleforum conference call.

  • Prof. John S. Baker, Jr., Visiting Professor, Georgetown University Law Center, and Professor Emeritus, Louisiana State University Law School

Regulation of the Legal Profession in the 21st Century: Should Professional Regulation Favor Social Policy over Client Protection? - Event Audio/Video

2013 National Lawyers Convention
Scott W. Johnson, Margaret A. Little, Thomas D. Morgan, Alan B. Morrison, David Stras, Jack J. Park Jr. November 25, 2013

Regulation of the Legal Profession in the 21st Century: Should Professional Regulation Favor Social Policy over Client Protection? - Event Audio/Video

In 1990, the Supreme Court unanimously held that an integrated state bar association, which all lawyers licensed in a state must join, could not use the compulsory dues paid by its members to pursue political or ideological activities unrelated to regulating the legal profession or improving the legal system.  Keller v. State Bar of California, 496 U.S. 1 (1990).  The Court explained, “[T]he extreme ends of the spectrum are clear:  Compulsory dues may not be extended to endorse or advance a gun control or nuclear weapons freeze initiative; at the other end of the spectrum petitioners have no valid constitutional objection to their compulsory dues being spent for activities connected to disciplining members of the Bar or proposing ethical codes for the profession.”  Id., at 15-16.

In the nearly 25 years since the Court decided Keller, the entities empowered to promulgate ethical rules binding on the lawyers practicing in a state have imposed a variety of regulations, some of which are more closely and clearly related to the regulation of the legal profession than others.  Requirements like continuing legal education and contributions to client security funds are generally seen to fall within the scope of permissible regulation.  The imposition of mandatory diversity training in Minnesota and a requirement that law students perform a specified number of hours of pro bono work as a condition to their becoming licensed to practice in New York look different.

Should state regulation of the bar be limited to imposing rules whose purpose is the protection of client interests?  Or, can the regulators impose rules designed to make lawyers “better” people in the belief that “better” people will better serve their clients?  How far can the organized bar go in “proposing ethical codes for the profession?”  To what extent do programs like mandatory diversity training and requiring law students to perform a specified number of pro bono hours serve the interests of clients?

The Professional Responsibility & Legal Education Practice Group hosted this panel on "Regulation of the Legal Profession in the 21st Century: Should Professional Regulation Favor Social Policy over Client Protection?" on Saturday, November 16, during the 2013 National Lawyers Convention.

Professional Responsibility: Regulation of the Legal Profession in the 21st Century: Should Professional Regulation Favor Social Policy over Client Protection?
10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

State Room

  • Mr. Scott Johnson, Co-Founder and Contributor, Power Line Blog
  • Mrs. Margaret A.? Little, Partner, Little and Little and Director, Pro Bono Center, The Federalist Society
  • Prof. Thomas D. Morgan, Oppenheim Professor of Antitrust and Trade Regulation Law, The George Washington University Law School
  • Prof. Alan B. Morrison, Lerner Family Associate Dean for Public Interest/Public Service, The George Washington University Law School
  • Moderator: Hon. David R. Stras, Associate Justice, Minnesota Supreme Court
  • Introduction: Mr. Jack Park Jr., Of Counsel, Strickland Brockington Lewis LLP

Mayflower Hotel
Washington, DC

[Watch or listen now!]

Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets - Podcast

Administrative Law & Regulation Practice Group Podcast
Peter Schweizer, Eileen O'Connor, Dean A. Reuter November 13, 2013

Extortion - Peter SchweizerIn his new book, Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets, Peter Schweizer lays out facts about the corruption and extortion in every level of government, on both sides of the aisle. Mr. Schweizer appeared on 60 Minutes to discuss several of the issues covered in the book, and elaborated further for a Teleforum audience. The Hon. Eileen O'Connor joined him to offer her comments.

Featuring:

  • Mr. Peter Schweizer, William J. Casey Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford Univesity
  • Hon. Eileen O'Connor, Partner, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
  • Moderator: Dean A. Reuter, Vice President and Director of Practice Groups, The Federalist Society

[Listen now!]