Let me know what I missed, and what should be higher or lower, but here is this year's version of my annual list of the year's top ten US legal ethics stories, along with seven honorable mentions.
- SCOTUS’s Hamdan decision rejected the controversial legal theories articulated in the OLC’s “torture memorandums”; in response, Congress passed the Military Commission Act, severely restricting detainees’ right to counsel.
- The plaintiff’s law firm Milberg Weiss was indicted.
- Corporate lawyers under focus: HP lawyers were caught up in the pretexting scandal; lawyers drew attention in the options backdating scandals.
- Mike Nifong’s prosecution of the Duke lacrosse players generated ethics controversies.
- DOJ rethought the Thompson/Holder approach to coercing corporations into waiving attorney client privilege; issued the McNulty memo; Senator Specter proposed a bill protecting privilege as well.
- McKesson successfully moved to disqualify Duane Morris even after signing a consent letter.
- SCOTUS’s decision in Gonzalez-Lopez reaffirmed the importance of a defendant’s right to counsel of the defendant’s choice.
- Law school news: pressure was placed on the ABA’s exercise of its role in accrediting law schools; Harvard and Stanford announced law school curriculum revisions; UC-Riverside announced its plans to open a new law school.
- California Supreme Court ruled in SF v. Cobra Systems that ethical screens don’t work for government lawyers where the “poisoned lateral” is the head of the office.
- State regulation of advertising: New York proposed stringent new rules on lawyer advertising; New Jersey outlawed participation in “Super Lawyer” campaign.
- Massachusetts required, and California considered requiring, mandatory disclosure of lawyers’ insurance coverage.
- California quietly continued its major overhaul of the one set of legal ethics rules that is still largely divorced from the ABA Model Rules and Model Code.
- Pop culture: an intoxicated lawyer was caught on Las Vegas court video tape and widely viewed on Youtube; Anna Nicole Smith gave birth to her lawyer’s child; an old Joe Jamail deposition excerpt was widely viewed on Youtube.
- Inadvertent disclosure and metadata issues generated controversy -- and conflicting ethics opinions.
- California Supreme Court ruled that a lawyer’s demand letter was criminal extortion (Flatley v. Mauro).
- Activist lawyer Lynne Stewart was sentenced to 28 months in prison.
- Alito’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings focused on judicial ethics.