Risk Update

Ethics Updates — Another Judicial Stock-driven Recusal, Texas Ethics Opinion on Review Response

Judge Exits $1B Nigeria Award Case Over Chevron Stock” —

  • “A New York federal judge who for almost four years presided over a lawsuit seeking to enforce a $1.1 billion arbitral award against Nigeria’s state-owned oil company has recused himself after discovering he owned stock in Chevron Corp., the parent company of one of the awardees.”
  • “U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman informed Ruby J. Krajick, court clerk of the Southern District of New York, on Thursday that he sold the stock he owned in Chevron’s Texaco Nigeria Outer Shelf Ltd. while overseeing the case, but he will no longer oversee the dispute. Krajick updated the parties in the case on Friday.”
  • “The letter referenced Advisory Opinion 71 from the Judicial Conference’s Codes of Conduct Committee, which provides guidance for addressing disqualification that is not discovered until after a judge has participated in a case.”
  • “The guidance also suggests the ‘parties may then determine what relief they may seek, and a court (without the disqualified judge) will decide the legal consequence, if any, arising from the participation of the disqualified judge in the entered decision.'”
  • “The letter does not say how or when Judge Berman learned about his Texaco Nigeria Outer Shelf stockholding nor why he was not aware of his stockholder status.”
  • “Judge Berman’s recusal comes amid congressional efforts for more stringent stock trading disclosure requirements from federal judges. It follows a recent Wall Street Journal report revealing that more than 130 federal judges failed to recuse themselves from cases in which they or an immediate family member held stock in a company involved in a dispute. Following the report, several judges across the country have stepped back from cases they were overseeing.”

Ethics opinion addresses responding to online criticism from nonclients” —

  • “Florida lawyers now have guidance on how to respond to negative online reviews posted by those who are not current or former clients — keep it brief, factual, and don’t reveal information concerning a client’s representation without the client’s informed consent.”
  • “That’s the advice from recently approved Ethics Opinion 21-1 that was adopted by the Board of Governors in December.”
  • “‘If accurate, the lawyer may state that the person who made the post is not a current client or former client,’ the opinion, put forth by the Professional Ethics Committee, reads. ‘The lawyer may generally note that the comments in the review are inaccurate but that the lawyer’s response is constrained by the lawyer’s ethical obligations.'”
  • “The PEC had been asked by the Board of Governors to give an opinion on responding to negative online reviews posted by individuals that are not clients or former clients after the earlier adoption of Ethics Opinion 20-1, which discusses a lawyer’s response to a client or former client’s negative online review.”