February 08, 2019

MONTH-IN-BRIEF: Legal Opinions & Ethics

Keith Fisher, Christina Houston

Professional Responsibility

RICO Suit Against Southern Poverty Law Center

By Keith R. Fisher

The Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”) is a law firm and advocacy group that, according to its website, “monitor[s] hate groups and other extremists . . ..”  SPLC defines a “hate group” as “an organization that – based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities – has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

The Center for Immigration Studies (“CIS”), according to its website, is a “non-partisan non-profit organization . . . devoted exclusively to research and policy analysis of the economic, social, demographic, fiscal, and other impacts of immigration . . ..”    SPLC designated CIS as a “hate group” in 2016.   Claiming that this designation is false, is incompatible with SPLC’s own definition of “hate group,” and is causing significant damage to CIS’s reputation and its ability to raise funds, CIS has filed a complaint charging SPLC with wire fraud as a predicate to a civil RICO claim. 

The complaint also alleges SPLC knows that the designation of CIS as a hate group is false, which could qualify as conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, fraud or misrepresentation or other misconduct under Model Rule 8.4.

Keith Fisher

Principal Consultant and Senior Counsel, National Center for State Courts

An honors graduate of Princeton University and Georgetown University Law Center, Keith Fisher joined the National Center for State Courts in 2015 as Principal Consultant and Senior Counsel for Domestic and International Court Initiatives.  He is an experienced lawyer and law professor and is a nationally known expert on domestic and international financial services regulation and legal and judicial ethics.  Recent speaking engagements on domestic and international  ethics issues include the Center for Judicial Ethics National Judicial College, the International Conference on Court Excellence in Singapore, the Professional Responsibility Training Session for Immigration Judges, an American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce Symposium on Improving the Greek Court System, the Magistrature de Quebec’s Colloque soulignant les 40 ans du Conseil de la magistrature, the U.N.’s Global Judicial Integrity Network conference on social media in Vienna, and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’s conference on judicial ethics and social media..  He also serves on the Board of Editors for UNESCO publications on judicial bioethics.

Christina Houston

Counsel, DLA Piper

Christina’s practice focuses on legal opinions, LLCs, partnerships, trusts and corporations and general commercial transactions. Christina is a member of the Partnership and Limited Liability Company Committee of the Corporation Law Section of the Delaware State Bar Association, which is responsible for annually reviewing and updating Delaware’s partnership and LLC statutes. Christina also is actively involved in the Legal Opinions Committee of the American Bar Association Business Law Section, the Committee on LLCs, Partnerships and Unincorporated Business Associations and the Business Law Basics Committee of the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association. She is the current Chair of the Opinion Issues in LLCs Subcommittee. Christina is a member of the TriBar Opinion Committee.