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Archive for April 15th, 2012


Watergate Figure John Dean to Speak at C|M|LAW on Ethics, “Wrote the Book on What Not to Do”

  John Dean readily admits the irony in his current lecture tour on legal ethics.  Dean is quoted in a recent article, John Dean of Watergate Fame Talks About Ethics, Chicago Tribune, 6/14/11, as saying, “I wrote the book on what not to do.”  The former White House Counsel during the Nixon administration, will speak at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law on the topic Watergate at 40: John Dean and the Ethics of Lawyers.

Dean participated in covering up the Nixon administration’s involvement with a burglary into the Democratic National Committee’s office in the Watergate Hotel, conducted by persons connected to President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign.   Dean later cooperated with the prosecution and testified against Nixon.    The Youtube clip in this post shows Dean’s testimony before Congress concerning how Dean learned of the plans for campaign espionage.  At 4:42, he remarks on his reactions to the plan and how he should have reacted.

In his lecture at C|M|LAW, Dean will address Watergate as a case study to examine cover-up crimes and activities and analyze them under post-Watergate ethical rules and standards.    Co-presenting with Dean is Cleveland Attorney James Robanalt, Partner, Thompson Hine.  A recent New York Times Article discussed Dean and Robanalt’s lecture, saying:

The issues are complex, but come down to this: What are a lawyer’s obligations when his bosses are engaged in criminal acts?

James D. Robenalt, a lawyer in Cleveland who developed the course with Mr. Dean after they got to know each other over a shared interest in Warren G. Harding, said the course would contrast Mr. Dean’s very limited options at the time with those available to today’s lawyers, armed with reforms inspired by Watergate.

Mr. Robenalt said the course paraphrases the famous Watergate hearings question from Senator Howard H. Baker, Jr.: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” The course asks, “What could John Dean have done, and when could he have done it?”

In 1972, Mr. Dean had few obvious options other than to serve his bosses, Mr. Robenalt said. Ethical standards were vague, and the requirement to zealously defend one’s client paramount. Under the circumstances of the rules in force in the District of Columbia at the time, the best a lawyer could have done might have been to resign rather than report the wrongdoing.

John Dean and James Robenalt will speak this Thursday, April 19 at 5 p.m.  One hour of ethics CLE credit is offered.

The library holds a copy of Dean’s book about Watergate, Blind Ambition: The End of the Story.  It’s coincidental that HeinOnline just added the Nixon Grand Jury transcripts to their Presidential Library.  HeinOnline is accessible on campus, and remotely to CSU faculty and students.