Steven Lubet, a professor at Northwestern University Law School, lectured at Valparaiso University Law School as part of the annual Tabor Institute on Legal Ethics lecture series. Professor Lubet is the Director of the Bartlit Center on Trial Advocacy and teaches courses in Legal Ethics, Trial Advocacy and Narrative Structures. He has authored fifteen books and more than 100 articles in various areas including legal ethics, judicial ethics, legal history, international criminal law, dispute resolution and legal education.
Professor Lubet delivered a paper entitled “Stonewalling, Leaks, and Counter-Leaks: SCOTUS Ethics in the Wake of NFIB v. Sebelius.” He pointed out that Justices of the Supreme Court, unlike all other judges in the United States, are not subject to a comprehensive code of conduct. He discussed Chief Justice Roberts’ memorandum on the topic of recusals and criticized each of the Chief Justice justifications of the Court’s current practice, which allows the Justices to decide for themselves whether or not recusal is appropriate.
Following Professor Lubet’s lecture, a panel of scholars offered comments and suggestions. Kevin Hopkins, Associate Professor at John Marshall Law School, noted that the framers of the Constitution intended for the Supreme Court to be cloaked in independence. He wondered what disciplinary measures could be applied to Justices who had breached a disciplinary code. Laurel Rigertas, Associate Professor at Northern Illinois University College of Law, echoed Professor Hopkins’ concerns in noting the difficulties in enforcing any type of code in this Court. Given the importance in judicial decision making of giving reasons for decisions, Professor Rigertas suggested that requiring Justices to provide written judgments on recusal decisions would provide some regularity and guidance of Supreme Court practice in that area. Barry Sullivan, Professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, suggested that it might be appropriate for Congress to have a role in this area by requiring a code of conduct to be enforced and for Justices to provide reasons for their recusals.
The Tabor Institute on Legal Ethics lecture series is made possible by a generous endowment from Glenn Tabor. Tabor is a Valparaiso University Law School alum and co-founder of the Valparaiso firm Blachly, Tabor, Bozik & Hartman. The goal of these lectures is to encourage reflection on virtuous living, illuminate the nature of the legal vocation and to clarify the responsibilities that lawyers have to both clients and society.
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For more than 130 years, Valparaiso University Law School has empowered talented individuals to realize personal and professional success. Nine “live client” clinics, a nationally recognized externship program, and a commitment to innovation, highlight a program of education that serves as both a path to a career and a path to personal and professional growth. Located in metropolitan Chicago and in Northwest Indiana, Valparaiso Law has one of the most diverse law student bodies in country. The faculty is distinguished by their commitment to student success and to continuing impact on the advancement of law and legal understanding.