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Protecting the Court’s Integrity: A Staff Attorney’s Role Presented by Amy Schumacher June 2, 2010 Texas Association of Appellate Court Attorneys Context for an Ethics Discussion Special relationship between the law clerk & Court – Serves as the Court’s & Judge’s attorney – Provides legal advice – Provides detailed knowledge of record – May have direct input into a judicial decision – May observe/participate in debate with Court members – Serves as an ambassador of the Court—and not just during office hours The Court & your Judge depend on you! Education of Ethical Responsibilities: Early & Often During Interviews Upon Acceptance of Offer Other Communications Prior to Start Date Initial Orientation Before First Argument Follow-up Sessions (mid-year review) After Any Possible Infractions Staff Attorney as Ethics Facilitator Introduce a Variety of Ethical Educators – Judges/Justices – Staff Attorneys – Other Staff Members – Former Law Clerks – Fellow Law Clerks – The Codes/Canons/Statutes Pick a Mantra Protect the Integrity & Independence of the Court Avoid all Impropriety or Appearance of Impropriety W W [your initials] D? Orientation Format: RICO Rule: Present a general rule or canon Illustration: Give a practical example the staffer might actually encounter Consequence: Describe how the rule protects the integrity of the court or effect an infraction has on the court or staffer Open for Discussion: Try to engage the group—encourage ―what ifs‖ Confidentiality Inadvertent disclosure – Law clerk happy hour on Congress Avenue during legislative session – General description of legal issues on memo/opinion – Oral argument behavior/attendance – Post-clerkship war stories – Personal email accounts & computers Conflicts of Interest Direct: law clerk worked on the case during employment Employer: case before the Court was pending in a court during law clerk’s employment Prospective employer: Law clerk’s prospective employer/spouse’s employer is counsel on the case Family/financial interest Conflicts of Interest Conflicts Worksheet & Interview Summary of Conflicts to Staff & Judge Responsibility of Law Clerk to: – Always check the briefs! – Update conflicts (interview season) – Clean personal computer files/emails – Manage conflicts as part of ongoing professional obligation Prospective Employers & Recruiting Accept nothing that may be perceived as intending to influence Accept no monetary benefits during clerkship (reimbursements, bonuses, moving expenses) Accept no bonuses prior to clerkship Reasonable meals, travel to prospective place of employment are OK Outside Interests/Activities Does the Activity – Detract from the dignity of the office? – Interfere with performance of Court duties? – Exploit the position with the Court? Sensitive Issues – Political involvement – Writing on issues pending before the Court Ethical Judicial Writing Stress importance of proper citation and attribution—Judge’s reputation at stake Clear & accurate recitation of facts as supported by the record Not influenced by personal bias or experience After the Clerkship Mandatory Ethics Follow-Up at Term’s End List of Pending Matters Writing Samples Special Issues with Interns Limit electronic access Limit file access Limit physical access Ensure cleaning of electronic files on personal computer & emails containing Court material Enlist law clerks to help supervise confidentiality & conflicts Sources of Ethics for Judicial Legal Staff Texas Code of Judicial Conduct Code of Conduct for Law Clerks & Staff Attorneys of the Supreme Court of Texas www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/rules/rules.asp Texas Ethics Commission Statutes Your Judge/Court Sources of Ethics for Judicial Legal Staff Code of Conduct for United States Judges Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees www.uscourts.gov/RulesAndPolicies/CodesOfConduct.aspx ―Maintaining the Public Trust—Ethics for Federal Judicial Law Clerks,‖ Federal Judicial Center 2002 ftp.resource.org/courts.gov/fjc/ethics01.pdf Discussion? Thank you!
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