Watergate II The “Cancer on the Presidency”

Reporting Up Under Model Rule 1.13
with distinguished guest speakers John Dean and James D. Robenalt

Watergate II takes participants from the slide into conspiracy and obstruction of justice to the moment of realization by John Dean that he and others had crossed the line of legality and that he needed to warn the President of the pending disaster to come if the conspiracy was not ended.

Richard Nixon won a landslide victory in November, 1972. But the triumph left Hunt and his incarcerated conspirators anxious lest they be forgotten as their cases raced towards trial in January 1973. A recorded conversation between Hunt and Colson in late November—which Colson passed on to Dean—was the turning point for Dean in his recognition that he and others had become deeply ensnared in the ongoing obstruction of justice.

When his wife was killed in a plane accident in December 1972, Watergate mastermind Howard Hunt increased his demands for money and issued a request for a promise of presidential clemency if he and others pled guilty in the break-in trial.

By March, with sentencing for the Watergate defendants looming, and with Hunt sending more ominous and threatening messages to the White House, Dean decides it is time to "lay it all out" for the president in his now famous "cancer on the presidency" talk with Nixon, which was recorded in the Oval Office on March 21, 1973.  That discussion takes center stage in the seminar.

Watergate II focuses on the ethics of representation of an organization and the "report up" and "report out" requirements of Model Rule 1.13.  The seminar also explores the ethical duties of an attorney who becomes entangled in client wrongdoing, whether deliberately or unwittingly.

This program track may qualify for up to 3.0 hours MCLE/Ethics.


John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Before becoming White House counsel at age thirty-one, he was the chief minority counsel to the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives, and an associate deputy attorney general at the US Department of Justice. His undergraduate studies were at Colgate University and the College of Wooster, with majors in English Literature and Political Science; then a graduate fellowship at American University to study government and the presidency before entering Georgetown University Law Center, where he received his JD with honors in 1965.

John recounted his days at the Nixon White House and Watergate in two books: Blind Ambition (1976) and Lost Honor (1982). After retiring from a business career as a private investment banker doing middle-market mergers and acquisitions, he returned to full-time writing and lecturing, including as a columnist for FindLaw’s Writ (from 2000 to 2010) and Justia’s Verdict (since 2010). Donald Trump’s election and presidency have created renewed interest in (and sales of) John’s earlier New York Times best-sellers: Conservatives Without Conscience (2006), which explains the authoritarian direction of the conservative movement that resulted in Trump’s election a decade before it happened, and Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches (2008), which addresses the consequences of GOP control of government. His most recent bestseller, The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It (2014), is currently being developed by Entertainment One and ABC Television into an eight or ten-hour miniseries entitled "Watergate."

John held the Barry M. Goldwater Chair of American Institutions at Arizona State University (academic years 2015-16), and for the past decade and a half he has been a visiting scholar and lecturer at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications. Currently, Dean is working on his twelfth book about Donald Trump’s presidency, while providing commentary and analysis on the Trump presidency as a CNN News contributor and analyst, and teaching continuing legal education (CLE) programs that examine the impact of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct on select historic events from Watergate (and the Trump presidency) with surprising results.

James D. Robenalt

Jim is a partner and former Chair of the Business Litigation group at Thompson Hine LLP’s Cleveland office. Jim has won big verdicts for client, including Avery Dennison ($81 million jury verdict on international espionage case) and Solvay Pharmaceuticals ($68 million arbitration award on drug co-promotion agreement). Jim is also the author of three non-fiction books dealing with the American presidency: Linking Rings, William W. Durbin and the Magic and Mystery of America (Kent State University Press 2004); The Harding Affair, Love and Espionage During the Great War (Palgrave 2009); and January 1973, Watergate, Roe v. Wade, Vietnam, and the Month That Changed America Forever (Chicago Review Press 2015). Robenalt’s fourth book, Ballots and Bullets – Black Power Politics and Urban Guerrilla Warfare in 1968 Cleveland, is being published by the Chicago Review Press for release in the Summer of 2018.  He is a recognized leader in judicial reform in Ohio.

In addition to his litigation practice, Jim teaches and instructs on the legal ethics and the representation of an organization under new Model Rules 1.13 and 1.6. Working with John Dean as fact witness and Watergate as a case study, Jim and Mr. Dean have developed an interactive, fast-paced program that explores the duties of an attorney representing an organization when wrongdoing is uncovered. Rule 1.13 defines “organization” broadly, including corporations, partnerships, unions, governmental entities and the like.

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