How UW Faculty Should Deal With the UW’s Lawyers.


TA’s resident attorney and cabbage eating rabbit, claims that I am wrong about this.  He says attorneys, even when appearing in other roles, remains attorneys under the ethical rules of the Bar.  With all due respect to the resident rabbit, Roger’s long comment after my post cites NO ethical limitations on an attorney who can claim not to be formally representing a client.  The potentials for abuse are frightening, especially at a university where presumptions of academic freedom and shared governance are very much at odds with the way these attorneys function.

I think the key words in Roger’s comments are ” Probably the best way to keep this person’s role and authority clear in your mind is to think of him or her not as an attorney representing an agency but as an agency employee with specialized legal knowledge acting in the same role and capacity as agency employees generally. That is, they can do things for the employer such as supervise, investigate, make bureaucratic decisions, etc., but they’re doing so as agents of the employer, not as its legal representative(s).”

I think Roger underestimates what an attorney, I will call her Dotty Duck,  can get away Duck Law uW iconwith when her victims are unaware of the legal niceties. Most citizens assume that lawyers speak with the authority of the law unless it is very clear that the lawyer is representing someone else.  If I get a letter from MasterCard signed  Dotty Duck, JD  I understand she is a Duck working for MasterCard. The same thing, unfortunately is not true when the letter comes from Dotty Duck, JD, UW administrator.  As a UW administrator, the presumption of many is that she is acting according to academic standards of truth telling.  Many faculty have been burned by assuming Dotty is acting in their interests!

This is further complicated by the fuzzy wall between Dotty and the office of the AG. The policy of the Attorney General (since Gregoire) is that the office represents the University’s interests over those of employees or citizens.

Dotty and her colleagues routinely inform faculty that if we do not comply, they will call in the AG.

Just as any other adversarial attorney, Dotty never informs her victims faculty members of her or his Miranda Rights, including the right to remain silent when questioned and that anything you say or do can and will be used against you in a court of law by the Attorney General acting at her request. Similarly, Dotty does not inform her victims her targets that they have the right to have an attorney present during questioning.  Even if she does mention this, she adds  the formidable threat that she has the resources of the state and that, regardless of your finances, no attorney will be appointed for you until and unless you are criminally charged by the University.

Compared with a cop at a traffic stop Attorney Duck has vast powers. Finally, Dotty actually has powers that other attorneys do not have because she represents not just the law but your employer. As recent examples show, faculty can and will be suspended or even fired at her judgment.

I would amend Roger’s comments in two ways:

1. Remember that Dotty is a lawyer and is representing the University’s interests rather than your own.

Any opinions Dotty gives you are tainted by the fact of whom she represents.  Moreover, unlike an attorney bound by the Bar, Dotty will not identify her client so you may not know she is representing your chair or even some academic competitor.  They, not you, have the right to remain silent.

2. Dotty consider herself as having the Attorney General as THEIR agent, not yours.

3. While I do not see any limits from the Bar, Dotty does have one limit … her communications are not protected by attorney client privilege. You can use the Freedom of Information Act, an easy email request at the UW, to obtain all of Dotty’s relevant correspondence.  She will not like you for this.

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