Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Getting the Rule Straight

Over on Legal Profession Blog, Jeff Lipshaw has attempted to straighten me out on the actual New York Times rule. My version -- and I thought I had coined the title myself -- came from a colleague shouting at me, "I won't write it down because I know not to write down anything that I would not want to see on the front page of the New York Times -- something no one obviously told you!!" Jeff says the actual rule is not to do anything you "wouldn't want published in the New York Times." Marie seems to concur and tactfully refers to the version of the rule I have stated as a "mutation of the New York Times rule by legal academics."

I had heard of the more positive rule, as related by Jeff, although not in terms of being on the front page of the NYTs. I more or less internalized it as "try your best not to be slimy."

What hit me in this exchange is how much Marie is right about how a rule that, as Jeff says, provides a nice ethical guideline -- don't do it -- has morphed into something that is exactly the opposite -- do it (or say it) as long as you can avoid responsibility. I also must smile at the delight I would have taken at informing my shouting colleague that he was just a tad off on the rule and that since he is an adherent he should be happy to follow the official version.

In any case, if it comes up again I will refer to my version as the "converse NYTs rule."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Judge William Bauer of the Seventh Circuit (a onetime state and federal prosecutor) pronounced a somewhat similar rule -- never write anything you wouldn't want a grand jury to read.

Larry Rosenthal
Chapman University School of Law

5/22/2007 9:23 PM  
Blogger Jeff Harrison said...

Disappointing -- another version of "you are not accountable for what you did but only for what someone can prove you did."

5/23/2007 8:48 AM  

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