Article Preview: A Behavioral Approach to Lawyer Mistake and Apology

Why do new attorneys make mistakes? How can new attorneys remedy these mistakes and avoid them in the future? How can law firms provide the guidance necessary to assist new attorneys in their transition to the profession? In her article, A Behavioral Approach to Lawyer Mistake and Apology, Associate Dean Catherine Gage O’Grady utilizes testimonials from practicing attorneys, principles from behavioral psychology, and examples from the medical profession to answer those questions; and she provides a detailed behavioral analysis of lawyering and legal ethical decision-making.

Associate Dean O’Grady begins her article by reviewing several concepts, such as overconfidence bias and cognitive dissonance, that are fundamental to an understanding of behavioral psychology. She argues that these concepts lead to mistakes in the law firm setting, and she provides several examples of how the concepts may affect new attorneys. For example, Associate Dean O’Grady states that confirmation bias—“the tendency to focus on information that confirms our decisions and to undervalue information that cuts the other way”—may lead a new attorney to make significant mistakes while performing legal research. This is because a new attorney will focus his or her research efforts to confirm legal conclusions already reached, even if those conclusions were wrong from the beginning. She also argues that cognitive dissonance—“a state of tension that occurs when a person realizes she is holding two psychologically inconsistent idea or beliefs”—can also result in lawyering mistakes. Associate Dean O’Grady poses the example that when a new attorney, who thinks of him- or herself as timely and organized, is suddenly faced with a new failure to stay organized or respond to client emails, he or she will experience cognitive dissonance and will likely make excuses for these mistakes. The new attorney, therefore, will be unable to acknowledge his or her mistakes.

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Article Preview: Moral Courage in Indigent Defense

Why do some individuals act more ethically than others, even in similar situations? This is the question Professor Tigran Eldred explores in his article, Moral Courage in Indigent Defense. Professor Eldred narrows this question to a familiar domain from his past work, the many ethical challenges that defense lawyers are confronted with while representing indigent clients.

Professor Eldred’s article—a response to Associate Dean Catherine Gage O’Grady’s article, A Behavioral Approach to Lawyer Mistake and Apologyfocuses around the phenomenon of “moral courage,” the ability of some lawyers to act ethically in the face of pressure to the contrary. He seeks to answer why some lawyers resist the temptations against subpar performance and also offers knowledge on what can be done to encourage greater acts of moral courage by others. While Associate Dean O’Grady’s article focuses on mistake recognition and acknowledgement, Professor Eldred focuses on why people are able to act ethically despite pressures to do otherwise.

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Faculty Blog: The Post-9/11 Weight of Korematsu

By: Lawrence M. Friedman and Victor M. Hansen 

Associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump have suggested that the infamous Supreme Court decision upholding the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, Korematsu v. United States, could be used to justify measures aimed at tracking and potentially detaining Muslim-Americans and Muslim immigrants. As Professor Noah Feldman has recently noted, the Korematsu decision is widely regarded today as having been wrongly decided and it has been, as Justice Stephen G. Breyer has put it, “discredited.”

But there is another reason why the precedential value of Korematsu has been diminished: its basic premise has been undermined by the Supreme Court’s more recent decisions in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and Boumediene v. Bush.

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Article Preview: Ain’t Misbehaving: Behavioral Ethics and Rest’s Model of Moral Judgment

Lawyers and law students are taught how to spot ethical issues through analysis of hypothetical situations. When it comes to recognizing our own ethical mistakes, there appears to be a disconnect between the ability to apply that knowledge to theoretical situations and to use it to resolve situations in practice.

In their article Ain’t Misbehaving: Behavioral Ethics and Rest’s Model of Moral Judgment, authors Milton C. Regan, Jr. and Nancy L. Sachs respond to Associate Dean Catherine Gage O’Grady’s analysis of the “dynamics that can affect new lawyer’s ability to recognize that they have made a mistake and their willingness to acknowledge it to others.” As both Associate Dean O’Grady and the authors point out, these kinds of mistakes can have significant ethical implications if the mistaken attorney cannot or will not acknowledge the impact of her error. In order to assist in the process of acknowledgment and avoid ethical issues, Regan and Sachs propose a framework for guiding these issues to their appropriate conclusion. Regan and Sachs find value in the union of psychology and ethics to guide the thinking of a new lawyer deciding whether to acknowledge her mistake to others and the ethical violations that can arise from that choice.

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Article Preview: Lawyers, Impression Management and the Fear of Failure

Lawyers often struggle to recognize and learn from their mistakes. Associate Dean Catherine Gage O’Grady has made the argument in her article, A Behavioral Approach to Lawyer Mistake and Apology, that this is a result of cognitive biases, and offered insight about how law firms might respond to facilitate learning, professional growth, and stronger ethics. In his Response Article, Lawyers, Impression Management and the Fear of Failure, Donald C. Langevoort not only supports O’Grady’s position, but also presents additional reasons to pay close attention to the insight provided by Associate Dean O’Grady.

At the outset of his response article, Langevoort suggests that researchers who attempt to predict lawyers’ behavior face challenges when relying on cognitive or social psychology understandings. Specifically, he points out that the means by which information is gathered and used by psychological experimentation is inherently problematic. Langevoort recommends that researchers should contemplate taking additional and, in his view, necessary steps before offering predictions and suggestions about the behavior of lawyers. Although he strongly urges researchers to follow his recommendations, Langevoort acknowledges that doing so may be difficult because lawyers often fail to cooperate with researchers.

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Faculty Blog: Deportation of Undocumented Persons and DACA Beneficiaries Could Crash this Country

By: Dina Francesca Haynes 

President Elect Trump has indicated, in his 100–day plan, that he would, on his first day in office, invalidate all unconstitutional Executive Orders issued by President Obama. Those of us who work in the immigration and constitutional law fields understand this to mean that in January, among other actions, approximately one million young people here pursuant to Executive Action and currently in high school, college, or the military, or who have recently completed one of these, will become deportable. These are the DACA recipients, beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. They are in school with you or your children. They work alongside you. They pay college tuition (they are not eligible for federal financial aid, so they pay a lot of college tuition). Those who applied and were successful received work authorization and a temporary promise from the Obama Administration enabling them to remain in the United States for a short period of time, so that families would not be torn apart and so that children who entered through no fault of their own, many of whom never even knew they were undocumented until they applied to college, were not punished.

If Trump goes through with his promise to invalidate DACA, he has several options, all of which have serious and perhaps unintended economic consequences that are very bad for this country.

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Faculty Blog: Analyzing Race-Based Classifications After Fisher

By: Lawrence M. Friedman 

In his dissenting opinion in Fisher v. University of Texas, Justice Alito argues that the Court indulged the university’s “plea for deference” in the application of strict scrutiny to its race-based affirmative action program. And he’s probably right, too: the scrutiny the majority applied in Fisher seems less strict than the scrutiny the Court historically has given race-based classifications.

But this isn’t to say that the result Alito would have reached—striking down the university’s plan—is also right. For he fails to appreciate that, just as equal protection doctrine protects only individuals who are similarly situated, strict scrutiny applies in the same way only in similarly situated cases. In other words, context matters—and context explains why higher education affirmative action programs may survive judicial review where the governmental use of race in other contexts would not.

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Faculty Blog: SCOTUS’s Use of Exclusionary Rule Becomes A Charade in Utah v. Strieff

By: Victor M. Hansen 

The Court’s opinion in Utah v. Strieff is the latest in a series of recent opinions in which the Court has significantly undermined Fourth Amendment protections by limiting the application of the exclusionary rule. As my colleague, Professor Friedman, noted in his recent post, the Court’s Fourth Amendment jurisprudence effectively allows the government to pursue policy goals in ways that conflict with individual privacy protections. The Court has been able to justify this by viewing the exclusionary rule as solely a tool to deter police misconduct. In situations where, in the Court’s view, the exclusionary rule would not deter police misconduct, the rule comes at too high a cost, and a number of exceptions have been judicially created to limit its application.

Of course, the exclusionary rule is a judicially created rule to begin with, since nothing in the language of the Fourth Amendment suggests a remedy for violations. And it can certainly be argued that, since the rule is judicially created, the courts and specifically the U.S. Supreme Court should be able to modify it as it sees fit. However, on closer examination, the Court’s rationale for not applying the exclusionary rule in Strieff and other recent cases only makes sense if you adopt a rather narrow view of deterrence.

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Faculty Blog: Supreme Court Effectively Upholds Fifth Circuit Judge’s Injunction of DAPA in U.S. v. Texas

By: Dina Francesca Haynes 

Last week, the Supreme Court issued its (non)-decision in Texas v. United States. At issue: whether one judge in Texas could enjoin a federal immigration program crafted by the Executive Branch, and whether the Executive Branch had exceeded its authority in so doing. I wrote about this case earlier this year, predicting a 4-4 split with the current court one justice down. Unfortunately, my prediction was borne out.

The Fifth Circuit—specifically one judge, Judge Andrew S. Hanen (who was recently accused of abuse of discretion when he imposed sanctions on federal government attorneys whose arguments he didn’t like)—had earlier decided that the State of Texas had established a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their procedural and substantive claims required for an injunction. What is unusual in this case is that a district judge’s preliminary injunction applies nationwide (and not, as would ordinarily be the case, in the judge’s district only).

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Faculty Blog: Utah v. Strieff: The Court Reminds Us That Constitutional Privacy is Essentially Meaningless

By: Lawrence M. Friedman 

The U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from pursuing its policy goals in ways that conflict with individual rights protections—except, as the Supreme Court reminds us in its decision in Utah v. Strieff, where the protection of privacy under the Fourth Amendment is concerned.

The remedy for a Fourth Amendment violation is exclusion of the evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search or seizure. Deterrence of governmental misconduct has been the animating principle of the exclusionary rule for decades (though it was originally just one of several rationales), and the nature of the Court’s cost-benefit deterrence analysis has led it, time and again, to conclude that the costs of suppression outweigh any potentially beneficial deterrent effect. As Justice Clarence Thomas explains in the opening paragraph of his opinion for the majority in Strieff, “even when there is a Fourth Amendment violation, [the] exclusionary rule does not apply when the costs of exclusion outweigh its deterrent benefits.”

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