Ethics of In-House University Counsel

The Chronicle of Higher Education (August 11, 2017), as well as social media, has been covering the unfolding story relating to the UF General Counsel Jamie Keith.  The saga began with a Title IX investigation which involved UF wide receiver Antonio Colloway, represented by attorneys Huntley Johnson and Amy Osteryoung. The article below focuses on the report of the internal audit conducted by UF, now that Ms. Keith has resigned her post. But this entire case provides an opportunity to explore the role of the in-house counsel, and the multiple ethical duties and challenges faced when working for a large and complex institution. Note also that Ms.Keith threatened to report the attorney who initially complained about her actions to the Florida Bar for discipline.  We will need to keep a watch on this case to see if any bar investigation or discipline results for any of the attorneys involved.

http://www.chronicle.com/article/Public-Records-Appear-to-Have/240908?cid=wcontentlist_hp_latest

 

Florida Prosecutor’s Policy Stance against Death Penalty Reviewed by Florida Supreme Court

The first African-American state attorney in Florida history, Aramis Ayala, made national news this spring when she announced that she would never seek the death penalty in any of her cases. As a result, Florida Governor Rick Scott transferred two dozen cases to another prosecutor in the state from another county, one known to be a death penalty proponent.  Ayala’s claims that these cases should be returned to her jurisdiction were heard by the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday, June 28.

The following article from the Miami Herald (June 29. 2017) provide a good overview of the Supreme Court hearing. This is a great case for highlighting the competing roles and professional responsibilities of the prosecutor. Keep a lookout for the Florida Supreme Court’s forthcoming decision in a case that has many legal experts filing briefs already on all sides of the issue.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article158614209.html

 

Dylann Roof: Should a defendant be permitted to represent himself in a death penalty case?

Unfortunately, my slides for the section of Chapter 2 relating to the representation of difficult and mentally ill clients continues to grow each year with the tragic recurring incidents in our national news.

This year’s update is the trial of Dylann Roof, charged with the mass shooting in a Charleston Church in June, 2015.

Dylann Roof’s self-representation, both in the guilt and sentencing phases of his case, raises fascinating ethical and constitutional questions. The case has been well-covered in the New York Times in recent weeks.

See this interesting article by UM Law Professor Scott Sundby in the Huffington Post (January 4, 2017), relating to the constitutional questions raised by his self-representation, particularly in the death penalty phase of the case.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-dylann-roof-representing-himself-is-a-constitutional_us_586d4390e4b014e7c72ee58b

 

 

 

 

Yet another challenge to the Florida Bar advertising regulations

The personal injury law firm of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley PA sued the Florida Bar challenging two aspects of its rules concerning lawyer advertising.  On September 30, 2015, Judge Hinkle from the Northern District ruled that the challenge to the requirements that references to past results must be “objectively verifiable” was not yet ripe for review.

The lawsuit also challenged the Florida Bar’s ban on truthful statements regarding a lawyer’s specialty or expertise, absent certification under the Florida Bar certification program or some outside certifying organization. Judge Hinkle found that this rule failed all three prongs of the Central Hudson analysis, and granted the plaintiff’s summary judgment motion in part.

I expect this is not the last word from the federal courts on Florida’s efforts to regulate lawyer advertising. Stay tuned.

See Christian D. Searcy et. al v. The Florida Bar, 2015 WL 5769238

Florida Bar Adopts New Professionalism Expectations

The Florida Bar Board of Governors adopted a new set of “Professionalism Expectations” on January 30, 2015. These Expectations  are divided into seven categories:

1. Commitment to Equal Justice and to the Public Good;

2. Honest and Effective Communication;

3. Adherence to a Fundamental Sense of Honor, Integrity, and Fair Play

4. Fair and Efficient Administration of Justice;

5. Decorum and Courtesy;

6. Respect for the Time and Commitments of Others; and

7. Independence of Judgment.

The vast majority of the expectations are expressed as “should” or “should not” which is to signal, as stated in the Preamble, that these are recommendations of correct action rather than matters covered by the Professional Rules of Conduct. A few of the expectations are stated as “must” or “must not” to indicate that they correlate with the Rules.

For a full copy, see here:

I am not convinced that this additional layer of recommendations will add much to the professionalism of Florida Lawyers, but let’s see.

Lawyer Well-being and Mental Health in the News

Several recent articles have called attention to the challenges that lawyers face in the midst of this stressful profession.

The Florida Bar News recently highlighted the problem of lawyer suicide in a provocative article by Scott Weinstein, Clinical Director for the Florida Lawyers Assistance Program.

http://www.floridabar.org/DIVCOM/JN/jnnews01.nsf/8c9f13012b96736985256aa900624829/5c5dc6e5081d87cf85257df5004a43cc!OpenDocument

The March 2015 ABA Journal also features an article by Stephanie Francis Ward on lawyers who self-medicate to address the stresses of the profession. This article includes an excellent directory of national referral services.

http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/lawyers_who_self_medicate_to_deal_with_stress_sometimes_steal_from_those

I discussed both of these articles in the context of the Chapter 6 duty to report misconduct materials, and the class quickly evolved into a lively discussion of the challenges confronting law students, and the role that drugs, alcohol and mental health play.

Please note the upcoming ABA Mental Health Day activities scheduled for March 27, 2105.

http://www.americanbar.org/groups/law_students/initiatives_awards/lshealth.html

The time is now to have your law school participate in this important national initiative. This is an opportunity to highlight professionalism and the relationship to wellness, and distribute information information including your local lawyers assistance program.