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Winter 2022 Course

Legal Profession: Government Ethics – Scandal and Reform

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: No Exam

The course will focus on the rapidly-changing legal system that is designed to regulate government ethics. The course will allow students to explore the legal and associated challenges for lawyers who represent clients in ethics-related matters, as well as for lawyers in the government who are charged with applying these complex and onerous rules to federal employees.

Over the past few years, numerous ethics-related scandals have led to a substantial overhaul of federal ethics law for all three branches of government, with the result that government employees are now subject to more stringent ethical restrictions than they have been in the past. At the same time, growing media scrutiny has made the reputational consequences to individuals and companies caught up in ethics scandals exceptionally severe, even in cases where no legal violation is ultimately established. Providing effective counsel to public sector and private sector clients thus increasingly requires an appreciation of both the legal and non-legal dimensions of ethics-related representations.

The course will concentrate primarily on the ethics rules that apply to individuals appointed to or serving in Executive Branch positions, although comparisons with rules in the other Branches will be addressed. The course will follow the timeline for appointees from initial selection to Senate confirmation, and will use case studies from recent administrations. The course will analyze the legal and practical questions that lawyers must address at each stage of government service, from initial appointment to departure from office. The course will also examine the ethics issues that arise for appointees upon their return to the private sector.

The course will involve readings from a wide range of sources; examination of a number of case studies; analysis of statutes, regulations and case law; and discussion of various approaches to the regulation of ethical behavior by government officials. Students will be expected to become familiar with the principal rules and authorities and with the basic tools used to regulate ethical behavior of government officials and with the role of the lawyer – both in the government and in the private sector – in the representation of parties involved in the system of government ethics.

Instead of an exam, a final paper, based upon essay topics selected by the instructors, will be required.

Note: This course is only available to JD 3Ls and LLM students.