Great news for all of us. University of Illinois law professor Richard Painter has accepted a post as the chief ethics lawyer for President Bush. Painter has been fearless and insistent when he's identified important ethics issues.
You may recall that Painter had proposed to the SEC that it adopt a more stringent rule requiring lawyers to "report up" fraud to the board of directors. The SEC declined his suggestion. Then the corporate failures began to mount. Congress instructed the SEC to create an ethics code for lawyers who appear and practice before the SEC. Naturally, the SEC proposed a set of rules that went far beyond what Congress suggested, and far beyond what was good for the country. The SEC proposed that lawyers shall "report out" on their clients to the SEC. (What else would a bureaucracy think is appropriate?) Eventually a trimmed back version of the rules was adopted, whereby lawyers may report out. What was the centerpiece of those rules? The more muscular version of the "shall report up" rules that Painter had been persistently pushing.
Painter has also been a champion of advance waivers of conflicts of interest, which enable clients to thoughtfully plan their legal representations.
There's been a lot of criticism (including mine) of White House and Office of Legal Counsel lawyers. I think Painter is the real deal and I hope he's allowed to have a major impact at the White House.