Ethical conflicts can appear almost anywhere on the legal landscape—a fact which ensures variety, challenge and scope for the new Moser Ethics in Action Initiative at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Launched in September 2011 with a $1 million endowment from the Moser Family Philanthropic Fund, the new Initiative offers law students a chance to enrich their classroom study of legal ethics with action projects conducted in the school's clinics or in state and federal agencies.
The endowment honors late and esteemed attorney M. Peter Moser's legacy of pro bono service and professionalism within the legal field. As part of the Moser Ethics in Action Initiative Endowment, UM Carey Law has committed to raise $250,000 in matching funds.
"We're elated to have the opportunity to establish an endowment in such an important area of our profession," said Phoebe Haddon, dean of the UM Carey Law. "Professional responsibility and ethics are traits that we strive to ingrain in our students."
The Moser Ethics in Action Initiative Endowment is the first principal gift given towards the "Carey Challenge," which is a new matching fundraising effort created in response to the $30 million gift to UM Carey Law from the W.P. Carey Foundation. When this gift was announced in April 2011—the largest gift in the law school's history—the school committed to raise an additional $15 million in matching funds.
The overriding goal of the Ethics in Action Initiative is to improve the standards governing lawyers' professional conduct and the enforcement of those standards. In each project, protecting the rights of clients by examining the lawyers conduct and role is the focus. Criminal defendants, for example, are often the victims of unethical prosecutors who failed to share evidence or incompetent defense lawyers. As part of the Ethics in Action Initiative, students will work with exonerated clients seeking to enforce the basic requirements of ethical representation—projects that would be housed at the State Public Defender's Office or in the Law School's Appellate and Post-Conviction Advocacy Clinic.
Other possibilities include work in the Consumer Law Clinic, where students fight foreclosure by banks whose lawyers used "robo signed" documents to make their case—a clear violation of the professional rules surrounding debt collection.
The Ethics in Action Initiative is the inspiration of Elizabeth Moser, widow of M. Peter Moser, a distinguished Baltimore attorney whose passion for professional ethics drove his participation in both the Maryland and American Bar Associations. In these organizations and many others he worked for years as a nationally respected leader to improve the profession's ethical guidelines. Professors Michael Millemann and Susan Leviton, both widely recognized for their work in lawyer professional conduct and long-time friends of the Mosers worked to shape the project.
A new, two-credit course will anchor all the Ethics in Action work projects allowing students to integrate ethics theory with the practical experience they're gaining. The interdisciplinary course will cover both civil and criminal legal issues and have a strong public policy component. This year, UMCarey Law is excited to have Sheldon Krantz serving as a Distinguished Visiting Professor to pilot the course. Professor Krantz is former dean of University of San Diego School of Law and professor at Boston University Law School. Most recently served as director of New Perimeter, DLA Piper's unique affiliated nonprofit that provides global pro bono services.