Friday, June 6, 2008

Legal opinions for sale; those who control San Diego schools pay millions of tax dollars for them

At last, someone with a high profile has spoken out about character and integrity among lawyers. I have done this, but the unethical lawyers at Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz that I have written about believe that they can intimidate me into silence.

San Diego County Office of Education has continued to cover up Daniel Shinoff and Stutz law firm's criminal actions on behalf of school district officials. SDCOE-JPA executive director Diane Crosier (above photo), not the board, controls the legal representation of SDCOE and most county schools.

Fortune Magazine has published a great article on the subject:

Fortune Magazine
May 30, 2008
Blowing the whistle on unethical lawyers
By Roger Parloff, senior editor

"In August 2001, when in-house accountant Sherron Watkins warned Enron CEO Ken Lay that the company might "implode in a wave of accounting scandals," Lay asked the firm's regular law firm, Vinson & Elkins, to do a "preliminary investigation." Though V&E had worked on the very transactions Watkins was questioning, it took the assignment and reported back on Oct. 15 that there was no cause for concern. About a month and a half later Enron filed for bankruptcy, having, in fact, imploded in a wave of accounting scandals.

"When V&E was summoned before a congressional committee to account for the breathtaking shallowness of its probe, it produced a letter blessing its performance from one of the nation's most highly credentialed experts on legal ethics: Charles Wolfram of Cornell University Law School. Wolfram opined that it is "customary and appropriate" for a company to conduct a "preliminary investigation" before undertaking a "full-scale" one, and that the firm had not violated conflict-of-interest rules because Watkins had raised "business and accounting" issues, not issues regarding V&E's "own legal services."

"In a forthcoming Stanford Law Review article titled "The Market for Bad Legal Advice," Columbia Law School professor William Simon cites Wolfram's opinion as just one example of patently bad advice offered in exchange for lucrative compensation by academics whom he contends are becoming "enablers of pernicious... practices."

"...Simon isn't talking only about V&E and Enron. He cites the example of lawyers at another law firm who "gave hundreds of opinions to taxpayers to the effect that bizarrely complex and economically substanceless transactions... were acceptable ways to reduce taxes. Some of them were virtually copies of transactions that the IRS had specifically condemned."

"Or of Department of Justice luminaries advising that "various statutory and international law constraints on the President in the 'war on terror' were un-constitutional or otherwise not binding" in opinions that "exaggerated the authority for the conclusions and omitted inconsistent arguments and precedent."

"Simon's article seeks not just to diagnose the problem but also to prescribe and administer remedies. The most controversial will surely be the measure he calls "shaming." That process consists of having other academic ethics experts - like Simon - write law review articles brutally critiquing the opinions that their colleagues have offered while under retainer. This, he believes, will help deter the delivery of bad advice.

"Like most ethics experts contacted for this article, New York University School of Law's Stephen Gillers declines to share his thoughts on the ethics disputes that Simon discusses, observing that he socializes with all the experts named, including Simon. But he does venture this: Simon's article is "unique in my 30 years as a law teacher. It's unique for law professors to so aggressively criticize the behavior of other law professors - not their intellectual positions. This is about character and integrity..."

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