October 2007 Ethics Dunces

Hofstra University Law School

Hofsta announced that it is holding a conference on legal ethics in October, and among the invited speakers is Lynn Stwerart, described by the program's brochure as a "high profile radical and human rights attorney."

But Stewart is more (or less) than that, for she is in fact a disbarred attorney, as the result of being being sentenced last year to twenty-eight months in prison on charges of conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists. Hofsta was aware of this, and thus its failure to inform unsuspecting attendees (who will pay $475 for the privilege of being lectured to by a disbarred attorney) is deceptive or outrageously careless. One can argue about whether disbarred attorneys have something to contribute to an ethics seminar---certainly white-collar criminals are doing a land office business with "don't do what I did" lectures to Fortune 500 Companies, though the Scoreboard suspects that the message they end up conveying is, "Don't get caught!"---but a lawyer being urged to pay money to attend such a seminarhas the right to be a knowing participant in the argument.

Once Stewart's true status was outed in the blogosphere and by such websites as James Taranto's "Best of the Web," Hofstra changed Stewart's bio on the program description to "high-profile radical and attorney (disbarred)." But that raised another ethical issue that, again, the law school should have been aware of but apparently wasn't. Lawyers, most of them anyway, only go to legal ethics programs because they have to. Most jurisdictions require a proscribed number of ethics classroom hours for attorneys must meet their "continuing legal education" (CLE) obligations. In New York, where Hofsta is located and where most of its lawyer attendees practice, disbarred lawyers can't teach accredited CLE programs devoted to ethics or anything else. Part 1500.4b (5) of the New York regulations of lawyers states thatů

"Continuing legal education courses or programs to be accredited shall comply with the following guidelines":

The course or program shall not be taught by a disbarred attorney, whether the disbarred attorney is the sole presenter or one of several instructors."

In other words, Hofstra's attendees may end up paying $475 not only to hear a disbarred attorney talk about ethics, but also to have that disbarred attorney render the whole conference useless for CLE purposes.

Hofstra Law School, in paying more attention to marketing than ethics, has managed to whiff at both.




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