With lawyers like this, who needs lawyer jokes?

The spectacularly despicable behavior of Cully Stimson, a lawyer in the Defense Department, who has publicly tried to get corporations to muscle law firms not to represent Guantanamo inmates by yanking their business, has been widely deplored in remarkably harsh terms. I’m not aware that he’s facing disbarment yet, but I looked in the DC rules of professional conduct and found what look like pretty ample grounds to yank his shingle, and even a duty for every other lawyer to drop a dime on him. Oddly, it does not seem generally prohibited for lawyers to bring the legal profession into disrepute, but if he’s not nailed for the following, one has to wonder about the whole idea of self-regulated professions, and if Gates doesn’t in any case put him on the street pronto, one has to wonder about the SecDef. Here are the relevant rules:

1.2 b A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does

not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social, or moral views or


5.4 (c) A lawyer shall not permit a person who recommends, employs, or pays the lawyer to

render legal services for another to direct or regulate the lawyer’s professional judgment in

rendering such legal services.

6.1 A lawyer should participate in serving those persons [note: not “nice persons” or “upstanding US citizen type persons” or “persons the President is sure are OK and suitable to have over for dinner”: persons], or groups of persons, who are

unable to pay all or a portion of reasonable attorney’s fees or who are otherwise unable to obtain

counsel. A lawyer may discharge this responsibility by providing professional services at no fee,

or at a substantially reduced fee, to persons and groups who are unable to afford or obtain

counsel, or by active participation in the work of organizations that provide legal services to

them. When personal representation is not feasible, a lawyer may discharge this responsibility

by providing financial support for organizations that provide legal representation to those unable

to obtain counsel.

6.2 Accepting Appointments

A lawyer shall not seek to avoid appointment by a tribunal to represent a person except

for good cause, such as:

(a) Representing the client is likely to result in violation of the Rules of Professional

Conduct or other law;

(b) Representing the client is likely to result in a substantial and unreasonable burden on

the lawyer; or

(c) The client or the cause is so repugnant to the lawyer as to be likely to impair the

client-lawyer relationship or the lawyer’s ability to represent the client.


[1] A lawyer ordinarily is not obliged to accept a client whose character or cause the

lawyer regards as repugnant. The lawyer’s freedom to select clients is, however, qualified. All

lawyers have a responsibility to assist in providing pro bono public service. See Rule 6.1. An

individual lawyer fulfills this responsibility by accepting a fair share of unpopular matters or

indigent or unpopular clients. A lawyer may also be subject to appointment by a court to serve

unpopular clients or persons unable to afford legal services.

7.1 Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services

(a) A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the

lawyer’s services. A communication is false or misleading if it:

(1) Contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary

to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading; or

(2) Contains an assertion about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services that cannot be


8.3 Reporting Professional Misconduct

(a) A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of

Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty,

trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate professional


8.4 Misconduct

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:

(a) Violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or

induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another

(d) Engage in conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.