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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Thanks, SCOTUS, for Useful PR Hypos!

This summer I am teaching an intensive five-week Legal Profession course  in the U.Conn. June Term.  I typically teach a fifteen-week version of Professional Responsibility at my home institution, WNE.  With both UConn and WNE students, I have found several relatively recent SCOTUS opinions in habeas cases to be a source of hypos that produce lively and thoughtful discussion.  The themes raised by students extend far beyond criminal defense and the byzantine procedure of federal habeas.   These include: Maples v. Thomas (whether client was abandoned by attorneys and thus could overcome asserted procedural default), Smith v. Cain (more Brady  violations from New Orleans), and Holland v. Florida (whether one-year AEDPA deadline for filing a federal habeas is subject to equitable tolling based on gross negligence by attorney).  I don't assign these opinions in my professional responsibility courses, although I do in Postconviction Rights.  In an ethics course, I simply describe the facts as hypos.  The Maples case, in particular, generates a quick list of lessons learned: out-of-state attorneys at a large New York firm missed a critical deadline in an Alabama death penalty case because they left the firm without notifying the court, the client, or local counsel, and without properly moving to withdraw or substitute counsel.  Using the facts as hypos frees the professional responsibility students from getting bogged down in complex procedural, con law, and federalism concerns, allowing them to focus on the practical lawyering issues.   I'd love to hear from others who have favorite cases that they use to develop professional responsibility themes, from any area of the law.

Posted by GiovannaShay on June 7, 2012 at 10:56 AM | Permalink


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Thanks for the tip, John. I'll be sure to read that opinion.

Posted by: Giovanna Shay | Jun 11, 2012 9:03:50 AM

I agree that the PR course can be effectively taught without appellate opinions.

Have you seen the new Delaware case, RAA Management v Savage Sports?


I'm still drafting a hypo, but I think it will be a nice vehicle for discussing 1.2(d); the 4.1/1.6/1.2 exception to the duty of confidentiality, and 8.4. Not to mention the risk of third party claims and related prudential issues.

The interesting scenario, in my view, is the one where a sophisticated client looking to be acquired says to a lawyer, "under Delaware law, it's just about impossible to commit fraud early in negotiations if we use the right written disclaimers, so who cares if we're quite aggressive (or negligent or reckless or false) in what we say about ourselves as the target in the initial offering documents."

Posted by: John Steele | Jun 10, 2012 4:15:51 PM

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