On May 19, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that an alien was foreclosed from establishing that alleged ineffective assistance of counsel deprived him of his right to due process, as aliens do not possess any constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel in immigration proceedings, and thus any ineffectiveness of privately retained counsel cannot be imputed to the government for purposes of establishing a violation of the Fifth Amendment. On its face, the holding of the Fourth Circuit regarding this issue seems spectacularly uninteresting—immigration proceedings have long been recognized to be civil in nature, and thus the Sixth Amendment does not provide any right to counsel. Without a constitutional right to counsel, there can be no constitutional violation if privately retained counsel performs ineffectively, as there will be no nexus in those circumstances between the counsel’s ineffectiveness and the state action required for invoking the Constitution. Notwithstanding this seemingly straight-forward analysis, the Fourth Circuit joined just one other court, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in finding that ineffective assistance of counsel in immigration proceedings does not constitute a violation of an alien’s right to due process. Every other court of appeals that addressed this issue has found that, although the Sixth Amendment does not guarantee a right to counsel in immigration proceedings, ineffective assistance of counsel may render the proceedings so fundamentally unfair and so impeding the presentation of an alien’s case that the ineffectiveness could deprive an alien of his right to due process under the Fifth Amendment. These courts have reached this conclusion in a perfunctory fashion, without squarely reconciling Supreme Court precedent that seems to argue strongly against the possibility that the ineffective assistance of counsel may constitute a violation of due process in circumstances where the Constitution does not provide a right to counsel.
Stem cells present an intriguing dilemma. They tantalize with their boundless medical potential, but challenge with equally limitless questions about their ethical consequences. If not for this ethical challenge, the question of federal funding for stem cells would be simple: How much funding and to whom? Instead, ethical objections, closely related to other highly controversial political issues, sweep stem cell policy into a political vortex. In recent years, this storm has reduced science’s role in the equation – transforming the issue from a tangible question of science and technology into an abstract debate setting ethical catastrophes against as yet undiscovered miracle cures. Given the political firestorm, government actors have treaded carefully, implementing halfway measures and justifying them by obscuring portions of the real debate from the public. The resultant policy, culminating in President George W. Bush’s August 2001 limitation on federal funding to existing stem cell lines, is driven by a blend of outdated legislation and imperfect institutional arrangements – a combination that, admittedly, handicaps the nation’s ability to explore the potential benefits of human embryonic stem cells (“hES”). More importantly, the policy fails to address the fundamental problem that purportedly justifies its existence: the ability to control the issue’s controversial ethical dilemmas.
Joint client representation is a practice that is fundamentally important to the legal system. The cost of obtaining private legal services has been rising over the past decade. This trend poses a serious problem: while the cost of these services has skyrocketed, the ability of large segments of the population to pay for them has not matched pace. Often times, due to the economic constraints faced by an ever-growing segment of our society, parties in need simply cannot afford to obtain independent legal representation. To these individuals, joint representation constitutes one of the most viable and accessible methods of obtaining adequate legal representation.
Divorce litigation is one area where an overwhelming demand for legal representation exists and where the problem of unmet legal needs is particularly pervasive. One particular subset of divorce cases, the so-called friendly divorce, appears to be an ideal candidate for joint representation. In these cases, the couple has reached agreement on the majority of marital settlement issues and requires only limited legal assistance.
Whether and to what extent multidisciplinary practices should be allowed in the United States has recently been described as the “‘most important issue facing the legal profession today.’” Multidisciplinary practices, or “MDPs,” emerged as an important ethical issue more than ten years ago when the accounting profession began to offer businesses a wide variety of professional services they had not traditionally offered. Consulting and other professional service firms followed suit, and began promoting services similar to those traditionally offered by law firms. The growth of these nonlegal firms led such firms to hire an increasing number of lawyers. Not surprisingly, this trend raised concerns about the unauthorized practice of law, conflicts of interest, and lawyer independence. Since the distinctions between legal and nonlegal professions have become muddled, the American Bar Association (“ABA”) has devoted significant resources to addressing the MDP issue.