Annual Meeting 2008

Mukasey, Legal Ethics Debate on Tap at Delegates Meeting

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U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey will give his first—and no doubt only—address to the ABA House of Delegates on Tuesday during the association’s annual meeting in New York City. The House convenes Monday.

After adjourning Tuesday, the House will next meet in February during the 2009 midyear meeting in Boston. But a new president will have been elected by then, and one of his key appointments surely will be a new head for the Justice Department.

But even without the revolving door of an election year, appearances by the attorney general before the House of Delegates are fairly rare, even though the attorney general is officially a delegate in the ABA’s 555-member policy-making body.

Mukasey is the third attorney general serving in the Bush administration to address the House. His predecessors—John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales—each appeared once.

The delegates also will hear from the association’s outgoing and incoming leadership. William H. Neukom of Seattle, whose term as president ends at the close of the annual meeting, will give his final official speech to the House on Monday. Later in the day, Neukom will hand the reins over to H. Thomas Wells Jr. of Birmingham, Ala., who will address the House for the first time as president. On Tuesday, Carolyn B. Lamm of Washington, D.C., will address the House as president-elect. (The House confirmed her election in February.)

The House agenda also includes a special panel Monday that will discuss the use of subpoenas to compel reporters to disclose sources. The panel, part of a series of such presentations that were introduced to House agendas a few years ago, will be moderated by Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

Meanwhile, a recommendation that would allow lawyers moving from one firm to another to be “screened” for possible conflicts in specific cases is shaping up as the potentially hottest item on the House’s policy agenda.

The recommendation would amend Rule 1.10 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct to allow the widespread use of screening so that one lawyer’s disqualification from a case over conflicts of interest would disqualify an entire firm.

The recommendation by the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility is similar to a proposal made by the Ethics 2000 Commission. That measure was rejected by the House by a 176-130 vote in 2002. But 21 states have adopted blanket screening procedures. A replay of the intense debate in 2002 is likely.

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