Should a prosecutor-turned-justice recuse in an appeal on a case where he sought the death penalty?

From NPR News:

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments [today] testing whether a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice violated the U.S. Constitution when he ruled in a death penalty case that he had been involved with as a prosecutor.

At issue is whether then-Chief Justice Ronald Castille, by refusing to recuse himself, denied the defendant, Terrance Williams, a fair hearing.

Full story and link to the audio clip here.

Teaching MR 1.2? 60 Minutes Offers Some Great Material to Jump Start the Conversation

If you haven’t yet watched 60 Minutes’ recent episode on Anonymous, Inc., you might consider using in class it to spark conversation about Model Rule 1.2(d)’s requirement that:

A lawyer shall not counsel a client to engage, or assist a client, in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent, but a lawyer may discuss the legal consequences of any proposed course of conduct with a client and may counsel or assist a client to make a good faith effort to determine the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law.

The episode features interviews with 16 attorneys by a fictitious client seeking help with money laundering.  Interestingly, only one attorney flatly refused to engage.  Among the rest, we see fascinating clips of their conversations as they weigh whether or not to take on the client. The second half of the show features legal ethics expert Bill Simon discussing the attorneys’ behavior.

Here’s a brief synopsis from the 60 Minutes website:

If you like crime dramas and movies with international intrigue, then you probably have a basic understanding of money laundering. It’s how dictators, drug dealers, corrupt politicians, and other crooks avoid getting caught by transforming their ill-gotten gains into assets that appear to be legitimate.

They do it by moving the dirty money through a maze of dummy corporations and offshore bank accounts that conceal their identity and the source of the funds.

And most of it would never happen without the help — witting or unwitting — of lawyers, accountants and incorporators; the people who actually create these anonymous shell companies and help move the money. In fact, the U.S. has become one of the most popular places in the world to do it.

More coverage below:

Full report from Global Witness, the group conducting the investigation, is here.

ABA Journal, Group goes undercover at 13 law firms to show how US laws facilitate anonymous investment

NY Times, Report describes lawyers’ advice on moving suspect funds

ABA President Paulette Brown responds to 60 Minutes segment here.

LT addition: For an article on US legal profession efforts to combat money laundering, see here  and here for related slides.

Video and podcast for teaching confidentiality

This 60 Minutes interview with two attorneys who stayed silent for 26 years while an innocent man–Alton Logan (also interviewed in the piece)–remained in prison sparks great class discussion regarding the duty of confidentiality:  Lawyers Keep 26 Year Secret  http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4126194n

I’ve started assigning podcasts as part of the class preparation assignment — this short piece highlights information security issues for lawyers related to client confidentiality, and is a useful supplement to the reading material in our casebook:  ABA Law Practice Management Information Security for Lawyers Podcast http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/multimedia/law_practice_management/201106_information_security_for_lawyers.authcheckdam.mp3

Great video clips for teaching attorney fees and billing

I’m teaching Chapter 3, Finding and Billing Clients, today.  Here are two video clips from the ReInvent Law Channel, each about 5 minutes, that provide insights into the materials.  The first is from Ron Gruner, who offers a client’s perspective on big firm billing:  We’re On a Mission.  The second is from Silvia Hodges, who describes how general counsels are using data analytics to better understand how law firms bill for their time:  Efficiency by the Numbers.

Teaching duty of MR 1.1 duty of competence?

If so, you might want to use this interview of Jon Yoo in class, courtesy of the Jon Stewart Show:

Part I http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-january-11-2010/john-yoo-pt–1

Part II  http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-january-11-2010/john-yoo-pt–2

While Yoo is largely there to promote his book, the interview offers students some insight into Yoo’s perspective on the lawyer’s role in delivering competent advice.  It sparked good class discussion when I used it this week.