Government Ethics: Conflicts of Interest, Lobbying and Campaign Finance

Section 1, Spring 23

Schedule Information

Enrollment: 8/12
Credits: 3
Days* Time Room Start Date End Date
  • W
  • 1940-2140
  • WB162
01/25/2023 04/26/2023
*“R” means Thursday

Course Description

This is a policymaking class focused on a controversial, highly-relevant, and rapidly-evolving public policy issue – “government ethics” (the laws governing conflicts of interest, lobbying, and campaign finance). The class provides students with an opportunity to research a “government ethics” topic of their choice, giving each student the opportunity to pursue in depth an issue of particular interest to that student based, for example, on past experience or employment aspirations, and to strengthen their oral advocacy skills in a simulated “study committee” setting. The skills learned will be useful in practice with a private law firm, non-profit, public interest group, state or local government, etc., as well as in public policymaking by legislatures and administrative agencies. There is increasing concern about ethical issues in government at the federal, state, and local levels. Furthermore, private clients are finding it increasingly difficult to conduct business with government officials and agencies without their counsel having a reasonable grasp of “government ethics ”rules and practices. There are myriad issues to discuss and research. Regarding conflicts of interest, for example, should the remedy for a legislator’s 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. The class is taught using sample statutes as vehicles for debating the issues raised in each of these three areas. The instructors, who bring decades of experience with these issues, have found that the “committee” discussions and policy debates are as good as (and sometimes better than) their real-world counterparts. An “overview” class on each of these three topics will be followed by several classes debating amendments offered by the students and the two instructors to the sample statute on that topic that raise challenging issues involving that topic. There also will be a visit by a leading journalist on dealing with the media (both as a private lawyer and as a government official). The instructors will be available outside class for consultation throughout the semester.

Course Requirements

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

Written Work Product
Written Work Product: The course requirements are: (i) a 20-page research paper (maximum of 25 pages) on a “government ethics” topic of each student’s choosing; (ii) the preparation of two amendments to each of the three sample statutes offered during the semester; and (iii) class participation, which will give students an opportunity to strengthen their oral advocacy skills by arguing in favor of their amendments and for or against amendments offered by others in the class. Materials will be available to assist students in choosing a research paper topic if they do not already have one in mind, including a list that will be posted on the Canvas course page of topics that have been addressed in the past (there is no requirement or expectation that topics must come from this list}. The Instructors also will be available to help you select a topic. Research papers will be due by no later than noon on the last day of the Spring exam period.

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: Students are asked to contact one of the instructors if first-class absence is expected. Students enrolled in this seminar who already have met the Law School‘s Professional Skills requirement may electronically submit a Writing Requirement 'Special Request" Form (which requires a signature by one of the instructors) to SRO by Feb. 27th. The e-form and instructions for it are available via LawWeb. Retroactive exceptions will not be granted by the Law School.

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: Friday, April 21, 12:01 AM
Evaluation Portal Via LawWeb Closes: Sunday, April 30, 11:59 PM