A Professional Responsibility Exam Question?

Don (“D”) serves in the District of Columbia as Counsel to the President of the United States.  On January 26, Sally (“S”), the senior federal law enforcement official, contacted D and requested a meeting.  He agreed and they met privately.

In the meeting, S explained to D that:

  • a senior adviser to the President has misled the Vice President of the U.S., and perhaps other government officials as well, about the substance of the adviser’s private communications with a foreign government official;
  • the foreign government is aware of this misleading through its public and private sources of information; and
  • this situation makes the senior adviser extremely vulnerable to influence by the foreign government.

In follow up meetings, S showed D the substantive information underlying her concerns.  D became convinced that this was a serious situation that the President needed to address, probably by dismissing the senior adviser.

During the next few weeks, D discussed this situation a number of times with the President and other officials.  (We do not know what the President responded, including whether he directed D to take any subsequent action.)

On February 17, D arranged for a local reporter to learn that, back in January, S had warned the White House through D that the senior adviser had misled the Vice President and perhaps others, and that this made him subject to influence by the foreign government.  The next day, the reporter’s newspaper published this information.  Public outcry ensued, leading the President to dismiss the senior adviser.

Assume that the foregoing comes to light, and that appropriate authorities are now working to determine if D should be subjected to professional discipline for his conduct.

The question:  Please discuss whether D should be disciplined under D.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6.  Please include assessments based on various assumptions, which you should state explicitly, about what the President decided, ordered, or authorized at various times, including with regard to the D-arranged transmission of information to the reporter.

Extra credit:  If times permits, please also discuss whether, on any set of assumed facts, D and/or whoever transmitted the information to the reporter deserves recognition and praise as a patriot.

 

On Judge Curtin, Judge Sharp, and Judicial Discretion in Criminal Sentencing

Judge John T. Curtin, who died last week in Buffalo, New York, at age 95, was a giant of the Western District of New York bench—he served with great distinction for almost fifty years.  Judge Curtin also was a gentleman.  I knew him a little bit and had the privilege of learning from him some wonderful, direct memories of western New York people, politics, cases, and law practice in the 1940s and 1950s.

I was pleased to see yesterday’s New York Times obituary for Judge Curtin (click here).  It recounts some of the significant cases that he handled, and the wisdom and values he showed as he exercised his judicial power.

The Times obit concludes with this story about a non-incarceration sentence that Judge Curtin imposed in the 1970s on Vietnam War protesters who had burglarized a federal building and destroyed military draft records:

Judge Curtin … presided over a Vietnam War-era case involving five protesters who had broken into Buffalo’s Old Post Office to destroy Selective Service records in 1971.  At their trial, they refused to stand when Judge Curtin entered the courtroom, and justified their actions as a legitimate response to the war.

A jury found them guilty of conspiracy to destroy draft records and intent to commit third-degree burglary.  But instead of sending them to prison, Judge Curtin gave them suspended one-year sentences and put them on probation.

 “Each of you,” he told them, “is free to speak your mind, associate with your friends, attend meetings, travel and continue your efforts in a peaceful manner.”

One of the protesters, Jeremiah Horrigan, called Judge Curtin last year….

Mr. Horrigan, a recently retired newspaper reporter, asked the judge why he had granted him freedom.

“I just followed procedure,” Mr. Horrigan quoted him as saying in a retrospective article he wrote about the case.  “I took into account your background, the fact that you had no criminal record, your family situation.”

Mr. Horrigan went on to marry and have two children and four grandchildren. “I tried to tell him how much I owed him [in] the only way I knew how,” he wrote of the judge, “by describing the barest outlines of a life of the luckiest man I know, a life he allowed to happen.”

Coincidentally, on the day following Judge Curtin’s death, Judge Kevin H. Sharp, age 54, resigned from the federal bench in Tennessee.  Sharp had been a federal judge for almost six years.  His reasons for resigning include his desire to return to private law practice.

Judge Sharp also was motivated to retire, however, by his frustration with federal mandatory minimum prison sentence laws.  Enacted mostly in recent decades, these laws require federal judges to impose harsh sentences, sometimes up to life sentences.  In Judge Sharp’s personal view, more merciful sentences would have been appropriate and just in some of his cases, but the law did not permit him to exercise such discretion in his sentencing decisions.

In a post-retirement interview (click here), former Judge Sharp put the problem in its human terms:

“The ‘drugs-and-guns cases’ — you say it like that and it sounds like they’re all dangerous [criminals].  Most of them are not.  They’re just kids who lack any opportunities and any supervision, [they] lack education and have ended up doing what appears to be at the time the path of least resistance to make a living.”

A wiser, more decent country would have federal laws that permit judges to exercise discretion not to impose harsh prison sentences on individuals who do not deserve them.

Such laws would encourage more people of the humane type that Kevin Sharp appears to be to become federal judges, and to remain on the bench for longer, even lifetime, terms of public service.

Such laws would give the U.S. more judges of the type that Judge Curtin was, in his time, able to be.

 

Jackson List: Lawful, Political, Deplorable Senatorial Behavior (1954)

This post, edited a little bit and enhanced with footnotes and photographs of John M. Harlan and the Supreme Court in 1955, now is on the Jackson List archive site in PDF file form.

Jackson List: Alma Soller McLay (1920-2017), Nuremberger

This post, including two December 1945 photographs of Alma Soller in Nuremberg, now is on the Jackson List archive site in PDF file form.

Jackson List: Judge Gorsuch’s Admiration for Justice Jackson’s Writing … and Justice White, Dubitante

 

This post, edited a little bit and enhanced with a couple of citation footnotes and a *great* 1946 photograph of Byron White as a U.S. Supreme Court law clerk, now is on the Jackson List archive site in PDF file form.

Jackson List: 125th Birthday

Tomorrow, February 13, 2017, will mark the quasquicentennial of Robert Houghwout Jackson’s 1892 birth, in his family’s farmhouse in Spring Creek Township, Warren County, Pennsylvania.

For your Jackson Birthday reading, here are some previous Jackson Birthday-related posts:

These and many more posts are on the Jackson List archive site, which is word-searchable and, using quotation marks, phrase-searchable:  http://thejacksonlist.com/.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Women in Senior Government Ranks, and Not

Notice the women.   In three of the U.S. court cases that were filed challenging the legality of President Trump’s January 27th Executive Order seeking to deny entry to the United States to nationals of seven specified countries, the Federal Judges are women:  Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria); Judge Allison D. Burroughs of the District of Massachusetts (Boston); and Judge Ann M. Donnelly of the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

Each Judge was assigned to her respective case by her Court’s random assignment system.  But each is there on the federal bench because recent Presidents, advised by U.S. Senators in the particular state, have made it a point, and at times a high priority, to appoint more women.  President Clinton appointed Judge Brinkema, who previously served as a federal prosecutor and then a federal Magistrate Judge, in 1993.  President Obama appointed Judge Burroughs, also a former federal prosecutor and then a lawyer in private practice, in 2014.  And he also appointed Judge Donnelly, a long-time New York City prosecutor and then a New York State judge, in 2015.  Women are still underrepresented on the federal bench, from the Supreme Court through the courts of appeals and the district courts, but the U.S. has made some progress in this area towards fairness, representation, and equal opportunity.

For National Women’s Law Center data from October 2016 on women on the federal bench, click here.

In related news, the New York Times reports today that the U.S. Department of State is losing, to retirements, two of its highest-ranking women:  Anne W. Patterson, until earlier this month the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and before that U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, to Colombia, at the United Nations, and to Egypt; and Victoria J. Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European & Eurasian Affairs until earlier this month.

For a March 2016 Foreign Service Journal report on women in the U.S. Foreign Service, click here.

Jackson List: Inaugurations and Change (1949 & 1953)

On the morning of January 20, 1949, Justice Robert H. Jackson and his wife Irene drove in to Washington from their Hickory Hill home in McLean, Virginia.

At the Supreme Court building, they met their friends Floyd Odlum and Jacqueline Cochran (a businessman and a famous aviatrix and businesswoman, respectively), who were visiting from California.  Later, they crossed First Street, Northeast, to the U.S. Capitol.  They sat – separately, Jackson with fellow justices, Irene with Floyd and Jackie – in V.I.P. seats and watched the inauguration of President Harry S. Truman.  Justice Jackson wore a small black cap, custom-made, from Livingston’s, a store in downtown Washington.

In Chicago, a young woman named Betty Stevens was one of many who watched the 1949 presidential inauguration ceremony on television.  She was especially pleased to see two Supreme Court justices, Jackson and Wiley Rutledge, “walking along gaily chatting.”  Her husband, Chicago attorney John Paul Stevens, had clerked for Justice Rutledge a year earlier, and Mrs. Stevens was happy to see that he appeared to “be in excellent health and spirits.”

Nearly four years later, General (ret.) Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected to succeed President Truman.  He, a Republican, would become president after twenty years of presidents (Franklin D. Roosevelt, and then Truman) from the Democratic Party.

In late 1952, Jackie Cochran wrote to her friend Bob Jackson.  She asked if she and Floyd could be Jackson’s guests at the impending Eisenhower presidential inauguration.

Jackson, after checking, wrote back to her in late December 1952:

Dear Jackie:

I have inquired of the Marshal [of the Supreme Court] and so far as I can learn we can carry out this year the same program that we did at the last inauguration – which was that you and Floyd came to the Court and we went from here together.  I think that will work out this time, although it may be something different.  You know the slogan, “It’s time for a change,” and they do have to provide this year for two Cabinets and two sets of officers, incoming and outgoing, and two Presidents’ parties, whereas before there was only one.

The Inauguration Day, January 20, 1953, was indeed different.  On that Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court had an official session.  The justices took the bench and admitted attorneys to the Supreme Court bar.  The Court then adjourned to attend, as it had four years earlier, the inauguration as a body.

At the oath-taking ceremony, the Justices, all bare-headed, walked in procession from the Capitol rotunda to the platform, in pairs according to their seniority on the Court.  Justice Jackson walked with Justice William O. Douglas, smiling and talking.

Later that afternoon, the justices returned to the Court and reconvened briefly in official session.  They did not hear oral argument in any of the ten cases they had, the previous day, put on call for January 20th.  They sent “home” the attorneys who were assembled and prepared to argue those cases, putting them over until the next day.

It appears that Jackson was able to arrange for Floyd Odlum and Jackie Cochran to attend President Eisenhower’s 1953 inauguration.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List:  Departed Friends, Remembered

The events of 2016 included, sadly, departures of special friends.  The five who are highlighted here were connected directly to the life, work, and major legacies of Justice Robert H. Jackson.  These people had great smarts, class, and charm.  Their lives were filled with selfless accomplishments.  Luckily, they have left us with powerful examples, including in various filmed moments.  They were:

  • Judith S. Kaye, Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, Chief Judge of the State of New York, and a member of the Robert H. Jackson Center board—click here for Chief Judge Kaye, in 2001, speaking at Chautauqua Institution;
  • Bennett Boskey, a law clerk to, successively, Judge Learned Hand, Justice Stanley Reed, and Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, and later a leading Washington, D.C., lawyer and legal profession giant, including in the councils of the American Law Institute—click here for Boskey, in 2006, on Stone;
  • Phil Neal, Justice Jackson’s law clerk during 1943-45 and, later, a law professor at Stanford University, law school dean at the University of Chicago, and a leading Chicago lawyer—click here for Neal, in 2002, on Jackson;
  • Gwendoline Heron Niebergall, a native of the United Kingdom, whose post-World War II work took her to Nuremberg, to service on Justice Jackson’s Office of Chief of Counsel prosecution staff there, and to, among other things, presence in the center of one of history’s famous photographs—click here for Niebergall, in 2010, on Nuremberg; and
  • Barrett Prettyman, Jr., Justice Jackson’s law clerk at the Supreme Court of the United States during 1953-54—Jackson’s final law clerk—and, later, a leading lawyer in Washington, a premier advocate before the Supreme Court, and a Jackson Center board member—click here for Prettyman, in 2012, on his heroes.

Memories of these people are treasures, for the year ahead and much, much longer.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

 

Respecting Respectful Janet Reno (1938-2016)

The New York Times Magazine, in its December 25th annual selection of “The Lives They Lived,” highlighted dozens of this year’s departed.

Among all the greats remembered there, only one, Janet Reno, was the subject of two reports.

One showed her rough-hewn Florida bedroom, photographed shortly after her death on the eve of Election Day last month.

The other remembered her during her 2002 near-miss campaign for Governor of Florida, two years after she had finished serving for nearly eight years as Attorney General of the United States.

In 1993 and 1994, as a Main Justice lawyer, I got to see AG Reno in action in a few big-crowd meetings.  She was decency personified, attentive to detail, and concerned only that she and everyone in the Department of Justice was doing their jobs well.

And she was charmingly not hip.  For example, at one of those meetings, held around the time when “dissing” became a word and a thing, the AG began to state her disagreement with someone’s point as follows:  “I don’t want to be ‘dis,’ but…”  (The room then froze for a second, and then exploded in laughter.  The AG, puzzled but knowing she’d said something funny, joined in.)

Janet Reno wasn’t “dis.”  She was exactly, authentically, entirely the opposite.  And her personal goodness moved and lifted people, including throughout the Department of Justice—she led the excellent people of federal law enforcement to do better, including in some hard passages, than they would have without her to follow.

Public life, in Florida and nationally, was better for it.