Government Ethics: Conflicts of Interest, Lobbying and Campaign Finance

Section 1, Spring 22

Schedule Information

Enrollment: 5/15
Credits: 3
Day Time Room Start Date End Date
  • W
  • 1930-2130
  • WB127
01/26/2022 04/27/2022

Course Description

This is a legal policymaking class, taught using a simulated legislative committee setting, in which the skills learned will be useful not only in legislative and administrative agency policymaking at the state, federal, and local levels, but also in private policymaking (e.g., in litigation, contract negotiations, etc.). The instructors, who bring decades of experience in these three areas and in interpreting, drafting, and advocating for and against legislation at the state and federal levels, can attest that these class “committee” policy discussions and debates are as good as (and sometimes better than) their real-world counterparts. It is becoming increasingly difficult for private clients to conduct business with government officials and agencies without their counsel having a reasonable grasp of the rules and practices in the areas of conflicts of interest, lobbying, and campaign finance. Each student will write a research paper, which will be due on the last day of the Spring exam period (Friday, May 15), on a topic of interest to that student in the general area of these three “government ethics” issues. There is increasing public concern about these issues, particularly at the state and local levels, where state legislators and local elected officials generally are part-time. This seminar provides opportunities for students to obtain practical knowledge of the rules and practices, and key problems, in these three areas, and to identify and evaluate various policy choices and potential reforms. After an introductory session, and an “overview” discussion to give students a basic understanding of the problems facing these three areas, each of the three topics will be addressed as follows: a more detailed discussion of each topic led by a student “subcommittee”, followed by several classes debating amendments offered by the students and the two instructors to a sample statute on that topic. Visits from a leading columnist about dealing with the press (both as a lawyer and as a government official) and from a U.S. Senator also are planned. In addition to regular class discussions, students will have the opportunity to strengthen their oral advocacy skills by arguing in support of their proposed amendments and for or against those of other members of the class and the two instructors. The instructors will be available outside class time for consultation throughout the semester. With regard to substantive issues, for conflicts of interest, for example, should the remedy for a legislator’s potential conflict of interests be disqualification from participation in the consideration of a matter, or merely a requirement to disclose the conflict, leaving it to the electorate to decide at the ballot box whether a person has engaged in inappropriate conduct? Or should there be civil penalties, or even fines and imprisonment? Should the appearance of a conflict be treated the same as an actual conflict? Similar challenging issues will be addressed with lobbying and campaign finance.

Course Requirements

Exam Info:
Final Type (if any): None
Description: None

Written Work Product
Written Work Product: Students will be required to submit a substantial research paper via EXPO by noon (EST) on the last day of the Spring examination period (Friday. May 15), and to submit to the instructors and the other members of the class,1-2 amendments to draft bills offered by the instructors three times during the semester. Students who already have met the Law School’s Professional Skills graduation requirement prior to taking this class may submit to SRO an Upper-Level Writing Requirement Intent Form in order for the substantial research paper in this class to count toward the Upper-Level Writing graduation requirement. In accordance with Academic Policy, the deadline for the form is five weeks after start of semester. Retroactive exceptions will not be approved.

Other Work

Other Course Details
Prerequisites: Because the credits in this course count toward the JD Program Professional Skills requirement, JD candidates will be given enrollment priority for this class. Concurrencies: None
Mutually Exclusive With: None
Laptops Allowed: Yes
First Day Attendance Required: No
Course Resources: To be announced.
Course Notes: First Day Attendance is expected, and students should notify one of the instructors prior to the first class if absence expected. The seminar will meet 7:30- 9:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. The credits in this course will be counted toward a student's Law School Professional Skills graduation requirement. Students enrolled in this course who already have met the Law School’s Prof. Skills requirement may submit a Writing Requirement Intent Form (signed by one of the instructors) to SRO by the deadline identified in the Enrollment Deadlines on LawWeb. Retroactive exceptions will not be granted.

Graduation Requirements

*Satisfies Writing Requirement: No
**Credits For Prof. Skills Requirement: Yes
Satisfies Professional Ethics: No

*If “Yes,” then students are required to submit a substantial research paper in this course, which means students do not need to submit any form to SRO for this paper to meet their upper-level writing requirement. If “No,” then students must submit a “special request” e-form to SRO (available via LawWeb) no later than five weeks after the start of the term for a paper in this class to be counted toward the upper-level writing requirement.

**Yes indicates course credits count towards UVA Law’s Prof. Skills graduation requirement, not necessarily a skills requirements for any particular state bar.

Schedule No.
Law No.
Modified Type
Cross Listed: No
Cross-Listed Course Mnemonic:
Public Syllabus Link: None
Evaluation Portal Via LawWeb Opens: Thursday, April 21, 12:01 AM
Evaluation Portal Via LawWeb Closes: Sunday, May 01, 11:59 PM