The Washington Post
Tuesday, June 11, 2002
Douglas T. Kendall
If, as F. H. Buckley asserts [letter, June 2],
the board of judicial advisers of George Mason's Law and Economics
Center (LEC) instructs LEC that there can be no "reasonable
question concerning the propriety of participation" by
judges at LEC seminars, then the board is giving LEC bad advice.
Former judges, members of Congress, legal ethics experts and
editorial boards across the country have raised reasonable
questions about LEC seminars because they are hosted at resorts,
paid for in part by corporate litigants and instruct judges
on topics including "the superiority of a legal system
that assigns liability to those best able to avoid injury
over a system that seeks only to spread losses by assigning
them to the 'deepest pockets.' "
A judicial ethics standard applicable only to "attendance
at educational seminars" instructs that "it would
be improper to participate in such a seminar if the sponsor,
or source of funding, is involved in litigation, or likely
to be so involved, and the topics covered in the seminar are
likely to be in some matter related to the subject matter
of such litigation."
LEC refuses to reveal the identity of the corporate funders
and defends this secrecy by suggesting that no inquiry is
necessary because of the "academic nature" of its
programs. This is silly. The ethics rule presupposes an academic
purpose and still requires investigation into sources of funding.
It is not okay for corporate litigants to pay for weeklong
trips by federal judges to resorts. No amount of obfuscation
by LEC can change this simple fact.
Community Rights Counsel