Saturday, March 10, 2007

The draft LEO that would allow the law firms of legislators to lobby

Here is the proposed LEO 1829, which strikes me as an abomination. If that's what the Rules allow, then the Rules should be changed.

There's something going on that I don't quite understand. In an era when judges and lawyers are viewed with less respect and more contempt, the Model Code for lawyers (adopted in Virginia not that long ago) and proposals this year and a couple of years ago for the Model Code for judges (as described here) eliminate the avoidance of "the appearance of impropriety" as an ethical requirement. In practice, that language however ambiguous it may sound made it easy for lawyers and judges to do the right thing - when in doubt, get out. The Conference of Chief Justices opposed the ABA proposal to take this provision out of the Model Code for judges.

The New York Times had this to say last month:

"At a moment when judicial independence is under heightened political attack, the nation’s legal establishment should be doing everything it can to shore up public trust. Instead, the special commission charged with recommending revisions to the Model Code of Judicial Conduct of the American Bar Association has been flip-flopping around on some of the most important aspects of the code, which the states use to set standards for their courts.

For decades, the code's overarching charge to judges has been to avoid not only actual impropriety, but also the appearance of impropriety. Recently, however, quietly adopted changes to the commission's 'final' report demoted this gold standard of judicial conduct from an enforceable rule to a mere aspirational guideline.

When the misguided switch came to light, the panel reversed field again yesterday and went back to the previous formulation. But that does not excuse the fact that the panel was following internal politics, not sound legal principle. The change might have eluded public attention if Robert Tembeckjian, the administrator of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, had not protested and Adam Liptak had not reported on the matter in The Times this week."

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