* Damn Those Ethics
- View SourceJ.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California November 21, 2001Damn Those EthicsGovernment Unable To Operate EthicallyFox News & Associated PressThursday November 15, 2001Ethics Rules 'Nearly Halt' Large-Scale Federal Criminal Probes ....
The Aug. 17, 2000 ruling extended ordinary rules forbidding deceit on the part of attorneys in court cases to all activities involving lawyers — with the effect that federal undercover operations, which under Justice Department guidelines must be supervised by federal prosecutors, simply can't continue in Oregon, the papers say.
The Justice Department, arguing that the restrictions are unconstitutional and "act as a massive roadblock" to federal law-enforcement activities, has filed a suit against the Oregon State Bar. U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan of Eugene will hear arguments next Tuesday.
The state Supreme Court is also considering changing the ethics code to allow government lawyers to give advice about or supervise undercover investigations that use misrepresentations "or other subterfuge."
The "truth ruling," which sent shock waves through the state's legal community, came during a case involving Dan Gatti, a private lawyer who the court said violated ethics rules when he posed as a doctor in phone calls to an insurance company he was preparing to sue.
The court, which has the final word on ethics breaches, strictly interpreted state bar rules against attorneys engaging in "dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation" and declared that the rules cover all attorneys — including those working for the government.
A 1998 federal law requires federal attorneys to comply with ethics rules adopted by the states where they operate. Violations of state bar rules, enforced by the state Supreme Court, can result in loss of an attorney's license to practice law in Oregon.Authorities say the ruling has stymied major criminal probes because prosecutors can no longer give advice or oversee such tactics as eavesdropping by telephone or concealed microphones, which require undercover operatives to misrepresent their identities and the purposes of conversations.....
Justice Department lawyers argue that the ethics rules unconstitutionally interfere with federal officials' ability to perform their duties.The Associated Press contributed to this report
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