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A Question of Ethics

A silly charge against John Roberts is debunked.

10:30 AM, Sep 9, 2005 • By SCOTT W. JOHNSON
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I've been teaching and writing about legal ethics for 30 years. I have written opinion letters for Democratic and Republican politicians, major law firms, small pro bono clients, Fortune 500 companies, and death row inmates. The American Bar Association has published my treatise on legal ethics. I've written so much (fortunately, trees are a renewable resource) that I'm on the record on most legal issues, and I can't (and won't) tailor my opinions to fit the politics of the moment. Plus, my former employment is no secret; it's posted on my Web page (along with some lawyer jokes).

I'm proud that I was able to work for my country. While I was at the DoD, I was not assigned to the Hamdan case. I don't know if the DoD has any official policy regarding judicial recusal, but I know I didn't work on that, either.

Moreover, where I worked can't affect the untidy little fact that my opinion merely quoted the case law. That exists no matter where I used to work, and it undermines any charge that Judge Roberts violated the federal recusal statute.

The Legal Times has declined to run a correction of its charge against Rotunda, but it has run a "clarification." One senses, however, that its heart isn't in it:

In the Aug. 29, 2005, issue, the "Inadmissible" item "Warning: This Case May Contain Conflicts" (Page 3) stated that George Mason law professor Ronald Rotunda "may have his own conflict of interest" in commenting on John Roberts Jr.'s involvement in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. That was not meant to suggest that Rotunda violated any specific legal ethics rule.

The comment by Glenn Reynolds deserves to stand as the last word on this sorry spectacle: "Likewise, I believe the Legal Times may be controlled by baby-eating space aliens. This is not, however, meant to suggest that theLegal Times is controlled by any specific baby-eating space aliens."

Scott Johnson is a contributing writer to THE DAILY STANDARD and a contributor to the blog Power Line.