1601 Wewatta St
Denver, CO 80202
- The Honorable Neil Gorsuch, Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
“Suggestions that President-elect Donald Trump put his business holdings in a 'blind trust,' which would mean selling them to avoid potential conflicts of interest are unrealistic and unfair,” says David Rivkin, of Baker and Hostetler, in a recent Washington Post piece. University of Minnesota Law School Professor Richard Painter said, in a New York Times piece, that President-elect Trump’s announced plans to cure conflict-of-interest concerns are “not enough.” Join us as these two legal scholars discuss their positions in greater detail.
“Those who won our independence," Justice Brandeis wrote nearly a century ago, “eschewed silence coerced by law – the argument of force in its worst form." They believed that “the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones." Holding that belief, the Founding Generation added an amendment to the Constitution that expressly protects the freedom of speech. Today, however, public officials and private citizens facing what they believe to be “evil counsels" have sometimes responded not by offering good counsel but by invoking judicial processes. They use “the argument of force in its worst form" to silence opinions and speech that they disapprove of.
Recent examples of this phenomenon include District Attorneys in Texas and Wisconsin who investigated and charged a sitting Governor, the whistleblower who exposed the practices of Planned Parenthood, and those whose political views diverged from those of the District Attorney. In two of those cases, investigators broke into homes and seized computers and documents. Significantly, in each case, the charges were dropped, although not without great angst and effort from the targeted.
Mark Steyn has asserted that the process is, itself, the punishment. Steyn has been sued by a Penn State climatologist who famously claims that he was defamed when his writings were subjected to ridicule. Four years after the suit was filed, it is still in its preliminary stages.
Most recently, a coterie of Attorneys General, aided by some senators, have declared their intention to stifle dissent on the subject of climate change. The Attorneys General of Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands sent subpoenas for documents to Exxon and a number of think tanks grounding their action on the contention that the dissenters are guilty of fraud.
Are these actions appropriate uses of the judicial process?
What, if anything, can be done to curtail the use of judicial processes to target speech? Are measures like Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation) laws an appropriate response? Are they constitutional? What about a federal anti-SLAPP law?
It is noteworthy that the worst abuses have taken place in state courts. Should Congress allow removal to federal court when a defendant makes a plausible case that the relief sought would violate rights under the First Amendment?
Professional Responsibility & Legal Education: Using Judicial Processes for Political Purposes
11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
The Mayflower Hotel
Our panel of three experts in legal and judicial ethics discussed several recent cases and regulatory developments in the field, with an eye to translating these developments into practical wisdom about their likely impact on law practice in 2016 and beyond.
Topics included the American Bar Association's move to expand the scope of the regulation of race, gender and other harassment and discrimination into the practice of law generally, including law firm management; amendments to the rules of discovery to help reduce the gamesmanship now often infecting the process; the extent to which the Supreme Court's decision in the North Carolina Dentists case may foreshadow limitations on the ability of states to regulate the practice of law without running afoul of the antitrust laws; whether competent legal advice must include a business advice component in certain settings; and how the use of social media to complain about a sitting judge can cross the line into unethical conduct.
On June 10, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, John Cornyn, Orrin Hatch, James Lankford, and Mike Lee introduced the Stop Settlements Slush Fund Act. The Act would prohibit the Department of Justice from enforcing settlements that allow parties to give money to outside parties chosen by the administration instead of the Treasury. Many of these outside parties have been non-profits that Congress had recently removed from federal funding.