Mueller Investigation Reflects Tricky Ethical Path for Lawyers in High-Profile Inquiries

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The American Bar Association profiled the panel discussion titled, “Risky Business: The Mueller Minefield and Ethical Dilemmas for Lawyers Involved in Government Investigations,” held at its national conference on August 9 and moderated by Fordham Law professor Bruce Green.

Chicago-based attorney Jill Wine-Banks has a unique perspective to view these turbulent times. Nearly a half century ago, she served as a Watergate assistant special prosecutor and now provides legal analysis and commentary for MSNBC on investigations related to President Donald Trump.

But there is a big difference, Wine-Banks said Friday, Aug. 9, at a panel at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. With Watergate, there was a burglary of the Democratic National Committee in 1972 and a cover-up that led to the Oval Office and the eventual resignation of President Richard Nixon. At the end of the day, the facts were never in serious dispute.

Wine-Banks and two ethics law specialists explored the role of lawyers and governmental investigations since Watergate in the program, “Risky Business: The Mueller Minefield and Ethical Dilemmas for Lawyers Involved in Government Investigations.” She was joined by Kathleen Clark, ethics professor at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, and moderator Bruce Green, a law professor at Fordham University School of Law in New York.

The panel engaged in a vigorous discussion of the lawyer model rules, revamped in 1983 after Watergate, as they relate to confidentiality, conflicts of interest, fairness to opposing parties and counsel, and publicity during the investigation or litigation of a matter.

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