Friday, January 22, 2010

John Edwards and professional discipline for dishonesty?

In class the other day we discussed Model Rule 8.4's broad reach on the issue of "dishonesty." I also told my students of a certain Legal Ethics e-mail discussion list I belong to that generated about 20 messages in just a few minutes in response to a single line question: Should John Edwards be disciplned for his dishonesty regarding his infidelity and paternity of a child out of wedlock (here is a link to the story in the New York Times). Since that discussion was (and continues to be conducted) through a bunch of e-mails sent to the members of the e-list, I can't reproduce it here. However, some of the members of the list also participate in the Legal Ethics Forum and they took the discussion there, which you can now check out here. The question is whether dishonesty in personal matters should be considered conduct for which attorneys should be disciplined. When does dishonesty about an attorney's personal life show he or she should not be allowed to practice law? Can we use evidence of past dishonesty about personal issues to predict future professional misconduct?

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