Conflicts and competence ripped from the headlines…

If you’re teaching conflicts or competence at the moment here are a couple of scenarios to explore, ripped from the headlines over the past week:

  • A recent NYT Deal Book column explores the complications and conflicts associated with a marriage between Mary Jo White as she leads the Securities Exchange Commission and her husband John White as he practices law at Cravath, Swaine and Moore. Apparently she’s had to recuse herself from at least 10 investigations involving Cravath representations in addition to cases involving her former firm Debevoise & Plimpton.

Conflicts and teeth whitening

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral argument in North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC, involving an antitrust challenge to the Board’s sending of cease and desist letters to non-dentists engaged in teeth whitening services.  You can access the filings and more detailed coverage at Scotusblog.  In my PR class today, we will discuss conflicts of interest inherent when regulators are members of the industry they regulate, and this case does a nice job of setting the issues, albeit in a somewhat different context than the way lawyers are regulated.  I’m planning to use this NPR audio clip to spark discussion. For more detail on how the Court’s decision in this case might impact the legal profession, you can read this amicus brief, which I helped put together.  And Scalia did ask a few questions about implications for the legal profession during oral argument (transcript here).