The Yale Law Journal

Forum Collection

Legal Ethics in Today’s Political Climate

24 Oct 2021
Legal Ethics

In this Collection, academic, judicial, and political voices examine the relationship between legal and judicial ethics and today’s political climate. The Essays range from discussions of the theoretical pillars of legal ethics to the appropriate boundaries of ethical behavior by various actors and institutions. Several suggest possible reforms.


Pluralism, Polarization, and the Common Good: The Possibility of Modus Vivendi Legal Ethics

W. Bradley Wendel

Scholars and critics of the legal profession often call on lawyers to represent clients in the public interest or with due regard for justice. However, in a climate of intense political polarization, rule-of-law values are of paramount significance for legal ethics. 



Lawyer Lies and Political Speech

Renee Knake Jefferson

Lawyer lies designed to sabotage valid election results are not protected political speech under the First Amendment. Ethics rules governing candor and frivolous litigation require sanctions, if not disbarment. Moreover, the duty of candor should be extended from the courthouse to the public square …


A Flood of Judicial Lobbying: Amicus Influence and Funding Transparency

Sheldon Whitehouse

This Essay explores how amicus briefs became a tool for coordinated judicial lobbying by dark-money interests. I show how current funding-disclosure rules for amici fail to provide genuine transparency—undermining fairness—and discuss reforms that could improve the judiciary’s amicus-disclosure regi…


Staying Off the Sidelines: Judges as Agents for Justice System Reform

Bridget Mary McCormack

Chief Justice Bridget McCormack argues there is no ethical obstacle to judges working to improve the justice system. To the contrary: although ethical constraints limit the form of their advocacy, effective law reform depends on judges’ contributions and they are ethically obligated to improve the j…


Politics and Judicial Ethics: A Historical Perspective

M. Margaret McKeown

This Essay explores the ethics and politics of extrajudicial activities from a distinctly historical perspective. While others have written about judges and their political and extrajudicial endeavors, this Essay situates its discussion within the evolution of judicial ethics codes, beginning in ant…