More than once, the Risk Tip has been inspired by the Futility Closet blog. The Blog once commented about British stoicism during The Great War, which stereotypically tended to downplay the horrors of the conflict in favor of a “stiff-upper-lip” attitude. Wrote one officer: “Nothing is ‘horrible.’ That word is never used in public. Things are ‘darned unpleasant,’ ‘Rather nasty,’ or, if very bad, simply ‘damnable.” Other examples provided were from a General who reported that his daily constitutional was interrupted by shrapnel that “scattered a shower of bullets around me in an unpleasant manner” and a Private who wrote to complain about the “strafing and a certain dampness.”
One manifestation of this was a postcard provided by the British Army to wounded soldiers:
Soldiers were simply to strike out inapplicable text, and were thus hindered from writing things like “I’ve lost my leg.”
What does this have to do with Risk? Well, if you’re an attorney with the Department of Justice, you might have to display that same sort of stoicism regarding a recent order from a District Judge in Brownsville, Texas — at least until the inevitable appeal.
Yesterday, the Court concluded that DOJ attorneys appearing before him had failed to exercise their duty of candor to the tribunal. In a scathing opinion, the Court not only revoked the pro hac vice status of the DC lawyers (suggesting some regret he simply couldn’t disbar them), but also entered an order requiring “any attorney employed at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. who appears, or seeks to appear, in a court (state or federal) in any of the 26 Plaintiff States annually attend a legal ethics course.” Going on, the judge ordered:
The Attorney General of the United States shall appoint a person within the Department to ensure compliance with this Order. That person shall annually file one report with this Court including a list of the Justice Department attorneys stationed in Washington, D.C. who have appeared in any court in the Plaintiff States with a certification (including the name of the lawyer, the court in which the individual appeared, the date of the appearance and the time and location of the ethics program attended) that each has attended the above-ordered ethical training course. That certification shall be filed in this cause during the last two weeks of each calendar year it covers. The initial report shall be filed no later than December 31, 2016. This Order shall remain in force for a period of five years (the last report being due December 31, 2021).
Those who practice the litigation arts know that few things are as unpleasant as a judge who has turned against them. The Tip is to recognize that the conduct of a single lawyer can have broad implications for one’s colleagues, no matter where they practice.