Washington Post Papers Over Ethics Controversy

Today, the Washington Post printed an editorial by Ronald Rotunda defending John Roberts’s ethical conduct. Rotunda argues it was perfectly appropriate for Roberts to hear arguments about the Bush administration’s policy on military commissions in Guantanamo at the same time he was interviewing for a Supreme Court appointment with top White House officials.

Here is how the Post bills Rotunda:

The writer is a law professor at George Mason University; he rejoined the faculty in June after working at the Defense Department and was not assigned to the Hamdan case.

The Post doesn’t mention that Rotunda was working at Defense Department as a legal advisor for military commissions. In other words, he was directly involved in the exact subject of the case in controversy. When Roberts sided with the Bush administration, he validated Rotunda’s work.

Rotunda’s role at the Department of Defense is a conflict-of-interest in its own right. Nevertheless, Rotunda has repeatedly offered his analysis to the media and members of Congress without disclosing his job with the Defense Department. Here is what Rotunda said when confronted by the Legal Times about it:

I don’t know what I was supposed to do, Should I include a long list of disclosures on every piece of legal advice I give, like you get when you buy a bottle of Benadryl?

Yes. You should include relevant disclosures before you give legal advice. For more info, see The Rules of Professional Conduct.

Rotunda has a long history of using his ethics opinions to curry favor with the White House. The Washington Post shouldn’t be helping him.