Denouement of Nevada State Bar Brouhaha

by Ed Whelan

Well, the misplaced outrage over Nevada state bar president Alan J. Lefebvre’s defense of elementary principles of legal ethics has yielded a whimpering statement of truisms and clichés from the bar’s board of governors.

As is presumably the case with every “Message from the President,” the “views expressed” in Lefebvre’s column “do not represent those of the Board of Governors, its individual members, or the State Bar of Nevada as a whole.” That, I’m guessing, is why the column is called “Message from the President” rather than “Message from the Board of Governors, its individual members, and the State Bar of Nevada as a whole.”

The statement says that the state bar “does not support any use of the President’s Column for political statements.” But it doesn’t actually contend that Lefebvre’s column contained “political statements.”

If the members of the board of governors disagree with the substance of Lefebvre’s position that the state attorney general was ethically obligated to defend state marriage laws, or if they think that defense of the rule of law is a forbidden “political statement,” it would be good for them to say so.

I also understand that Lefebvre has agreed to make a statement of apology for having “caused hurt feelings and anger among some of our members.” I hope that it reads something like: “I’m so sorry that your poor understanding of the duties of a state attorney general meant that my column caused you hurt feelings and anger.”

Perhaps Lefebvre should also be invited to write on a chalkboard twenty times, “I will never again defend the rule of law when it is politically unpopular to do so.”

Meanwhile, of course, this sideshow has distracted from the genuine scandal of the state attorney general’s dereliction of duty—a scandal that the members of the board of governors, along with the UNLV law faculty, are all too happy to ignore.

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