Fordham Student Wins National Award for Writing on Legal Ethics

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The Burton Awards for Legal Achievement has honored Fordham Law School student Joshua Liebman ’17 with a 2017 Distinguished Legal Writing Award.

The Burton Awards, a nonprofit program administrated in association with the Library of Congress and sponsored by the legal trade journal Law360, singled out for distinction Liebman’s note, “Dishonest Ethical Advocacy?: False Defenses in Criminal Court,” which appeared last year in the Fordham Law Review.

From a national field of law student publications drawn from top law school journals, the Burton Awards chooses ten pieces per year for this distinction, placing a special emphasis on the quality of nominees’ writing and their advocacy for reform of the legal system. Each law school can nominate one publication for the award each year.

“Dishonest Ethical Advocacy?” addresses a complex ethical issue inherent in an adversarial justice system: To what extent should courts allow criminal defense attorneys to defend their clients when they know their clients are guilty?

After weighing the advantages and disadvantages of either entirely forbidding or entirely permitting this practice, Liebman concludes his paper by recommending a joint approach.

“Rather than accepting or rejecting false defenses wholesale,” Liebman writes, “this Note argues that the best reading of the [ethics rules governing lawyers]permits some false defense tactics and prohibits others.”

The awards ceremony, at which U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg will also be honored, will take place in May at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Liebman earned his bachelor’s degree cum laude from Columbia University, where he majored in political science and music. He is a Stein Scholar in Public Interest Law and Ethics and serves as associate editor of the Fordham Law Review. He has also worked in the Law School’s Federal Litigation Clinic and its Legislative and Policy Advocacy Clinic.

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