The Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics

Fordham University
140 West 62nd Street
New York NY 10023

phone: 212-636-7771
fax: 212-636-6899
email: info@laane.org


Contact:

Sheila Foster, Professor of Law, Co-Director
212-636-7771     sfoster@law.fordham.edu

 

 

Web site:   www.law.fordham.edu/homejump.ihtml?pageid=155

 

Mission:

The Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics at Fordham University is conducting research and making recommendations that promote collaborative solutions to the environmental degradation of Camden, New Jersey.

 

Description:

The Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics at the Fordham School of Law was founded in 1992 to promote the integration of ethical perspectives in legal practice, legal institutions, and the developmentof the law. Toward this end, the Stein Center sponsors programs, develops publications, and supports scholarship on contemporary issues of law and ethics, and encourages professional and public institutions to incorporate moral perspectives into their work.

 

Resources to Share:

In addition to the scholarly work published by the individual Stein Faculty members, the Stein Center collaborates with other academics, leading members of the bar and organizations within Fordham to produce writings on legal ethics and public interest issues. The collaboration advances the dialogue in these areas and assists attorneys confronted by difficult issues in their practice.

The Stein Center has co-authored three amicus briefs involving legal ethics issues in civil and criminal cases before the Supreme Court and has joined a group of legal ethics professors as amici in a fourth.

The first case, Bryan v. Moore (PDF file), raised the question of whether execution by electric chair constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

After the brief was filed, Florida amended its statute to provide for lethal injection as an alternative to electrocution, and the Court therefore dismissed the case as moot.

The second case, Williams v. Taylor (PDF file), raised various procedural questions. One aspect of the case, addressed by the amicus brief, involved a question of government lawyers' ethics. After the state court affirmed the defendant's conviction, and while the defendant was planning to challenge the conviction in federal court, the defendant's lawyer requested that the government produce evidence that might show that the key prosecution witness was not credible.

Although the prosecutor possessed such evidence, he failed to produce it at the trial. After the conviction was affirmed, he refused to disclose it, arguing that once the conviction was upheld on appeal, he no longer had the obligation that a prosecutor ordinarily would have to turn over exculpatory evidence.

The amicus brief argued that the prosecutor had misconceived his professional obligations. Ultimately, the Court did not address the issue discussed in the amicus brief, but the death sentence was overturned on other grounds.

The third amicus brief was filed in Legal Services Corporation v. Carmen Velazquez, et al (PDF file). The case challenged the Legal Services Corporation's 1996 restrictions prohibiting LSC-funded lawyers from challenging state or federal welfare reform statutes or regulations on constitutional or other grounds. The amicus brief focused on the restrictions' effect on welfare recipients' access to legal services as well as the restriction's implications for lawyers' ethical responsibilities.

The case was decided February 28, 2001, at which time the Supreme Court found the restrictions to be unconstitutional.

The fourth case, Walter Mickens,Jr. v. John B. Taylor, Warden (PDF file), in which the Stein Center joined as amici, was argued on November 5.Defendant's court appointed counsel in a felony murder case also happened to have been assigned to represent the deceased victim in an unrelated assault case. The assault case was dismissed as a result of his death. The judge who dismissed the decedent's assault case subsequently appointed the same counsel to represent defendant. Neither the judge nor the attorney disclosed those facts to defendant. The sole question presented was whether a defendant must show an actual conflict of interest and an adverse effect in order to establish a Sixth Amendment violation where the trial court failed to inquire into a potential conflict of interest about which it reasonably should have known.

The amicus brief argued that a conflict of interest sufficient to be cognizable under the Sixth Amendment ineffective assistance standard existed, and that defendant should not be required to demonstrate any adverse effect. Stressing the critical importance of the historical duty of loyalty in shaping the ethical duties of counsel in the United States, the brief also argued the attorney's representation of defendant was materially limited by his duties to decedent, particularly regarding the character and conduct of the decedent which were pertinent issues in the case.