Jessica Radack


The so-called "torture memos" beg for a re-examination of government lawyers' ethical obligations, especially when acting as advisors, not advocates. This article explores the two major models of government lawyers' ethics: the "agency" approach, which stresses the duties of loyalty, zeal and confidentiality and disfavors attorney interference with client goals, and the "public interest" approach, which places greater weight on fairness and justice, and wants lawyers to weigh in on the wisdom and morality of what their clients are considering. This article argues that an Eighth Amendment analysis should be employed to determine what constitutes a "morally perilous question. " Finally, government attorneys should ascribe primacy to the public interest approach when rendering advice on morally perilous questions and the ABA Model Rules should adopt a provision governing the special responsibilities of government lawyers acting in an advisory capacity.