Precedents Exist For Related Lawyers' Ethics

The opinion-page article ``When Lawyers Marry Lawyers,'' April 12, claims that there is no precedent for charging Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Clinton with conflict of interest. The author sets up a small platoon of straw men whom he knocks down to show that ethical principles would have denied Mrs. Clinton real opportunities to practice law in Arkansas because of her unique situation.

This is nonsense. Certainly neither Mrs. Clinton nor her law firm should practice before state administrative agencies because those agencies perform a quasi-judicial function, and the appearance of impropriety should be avoided. But to say that she could not do legal work for an estate is stretching the point past recognition; probate courts are virtually nothing but administrative bodies, and almost never involve the state as a party.

But the most egregious statement is that judges hear cases involving clients represented by their sons, or by firms employing their sons, ``all the time.'' Perhaps the author is unaware that when Ramsey Clark was appointed attorney general of the United States, his father, Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark, resigned from the Court to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. And in the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio there is a standing order that if a certain judge should be selected (by a blind random-choice process) for a case where either party is represented by his former law firm, the next judge in line receives that case. These are examples of the proper operation of ethical principles. Robert B. Henn, Ambler, Pa.

Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published, and none acknowledged. Letters should be addressed to ``Readers Write,'' and can be sent by Internet E-mail (200 word maximum) to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115

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