Fletcher: “Bullshit and the Tribal Client”

I’ll be presenting aspects of a draft paper, “Bullshit and the Tribal Client,” at Federal Indian Bar next week. Here is the abstract:

While it is well established that lawyers may not lie to their clients, it is not well established whether counsel can bullshit their potential and active clients. I do not mean bullshit as a term of abuse, but rather as philosopher Harry Frankfurt meant it. Frankfurt identified politicians and public relations professionals as examples of modern day bullshitters. Politicians and PR professionals care only about reaching their goals, and while that may include telling lies, it definitely includes making statements that no one can possibly know is true or not. All that matters is the outcome. Lawyers are bullshitters, too. And lawyers utilize bullshit for the same reason politicians do – to persuade someone to select them. Politicians want a vote; lawyers want a client. In American Indian law and policy, lawyers are not the only bullshitters – elected tribal officials are politicians, too, and many of them are bullshitters as well.

While there is a lot of bullshit going around, I am mostly (but not entirely) concerned about bullshit from outside counsel, often specialized counsel, directed at tribal clients. This paper is intended to identify areas where counsel employs bullshit when dealing with tribal clients. By counsel I mean both outside counsel and in-house counsel, and by clients I include both in-house counsel and tribal leadership. The relationship between in-house counsel and most, if not quite all, tribal government clients renders tribal clients uniquely vulnerable to bullshit by outside counsel. I offer suggestions, mostly for the benefit of in-house counsel, on how to deal with bullshit from both outside counsel and tribal officials. However, I will be the first to acknowledge that in-house may be placed in a no-win scenario, especially once appellate specialists take control of a case involving tribal interests.

Substantive comments welcome.

On another note, I recommend learning more about and perhaps joining the Tribal In-House Counsel Association.

Geoffrey Feiger Loses Free Speech Claim in Sixth Circuit

From How Appealing:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has today issued its ruling in Geoffrey Fieger v. Michigan Supreme Court: Today’s ruling begins:

After a panel of judges on the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a $15 million judgment initially entered in favor of his client, and while the case was pending before the court, attorney Geoffrey Nels Fieger made vulgar comments about the judges on a radio show he hosted.

The majority on a divided three-judge panel reached the following holding:

We vacate the judgment of the district court and remand with instructions to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. We hold that Fieger and Steinberg lack standing because they have failed to demonstrate actual present harm or a significant possibility of future harm based on a single, stipulated reprimand; they have not articulated, with any degree of specificity, their intended speech and conduct; and they have not sufficiently established a threat of future sanction under the narrow construction of the challenged provisions applied by the Michigan Supreme Court. For these same reasons, we also hold that the district court abused its discretion in entering declaratory relief.

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