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"No Corporate Junkets for Judges "

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.

Executive Director
Community Rights Counsel

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