Once a Lawyer Always a Lawyer?

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On February 20, 2017 law professors from across the United States filed a disciplinary complaint against Ms. Kellyanne Conway. Ms. Conway is currently a suspended lawyer due to her failure to pay fees to the District of Columbia Bar.

In the disciplinary complaint, the professors cite several instances of misconduct by Ms. Conway, including putting forth alternative facts about the size of Mr. Trump’s inauguration crowd.  They argue that “[i]f Ms. Conway were not a lawyer and was ‘only’ engaging in politics, there would be few limits on her conduct outside of the political process itself. She could say and do what she wished and still call herself a politician. But she is a lawyer…”

Under Rule 8.4(c) of the DC Rules of Professional Conduct, it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct that involves dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. The professors then go on to argue that lawyers in public office have a higher obligation to avoid conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation than lawyers outside public office.

In “Government Lawyers in the Trump Administration”, W. Bradley Wendel states that while any government official must take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, lawyers have additional obligations. There is a fine line “between doggedly seeking a lawful solution to the problems facing a President and his administration, on the one hand, and assisting government officials in conduct that is unlawful, on the other”.

It appears that Ms. Conway has crossed a line. After all, his goals are her goals. His message is her message.

But does it make a difference that she crossed the line while not actually practicing law? And, what would the punishment be? She’s already suspended.

Hopefully, the complaint does not turn into a circus show.

(The views expressed in this blog are my personal views and do not reflect the views of any organization)

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