December 10, 2020 Articles

Ethics Issues for the Unelected Lawyer Spouse

What happens after political dreams come true?

By Margaret Monihan Toohey
What to do when your spouse is elected vice president?

What to do when your spouse is elected vice president?

Credit: Lorie Shaull | Wikimedia Commons

It is safe to say that this article presents an ethics scenario most of us will never face: what to do when your spouse is elected vice president.

Within days after news networks called the 2020 presidential race, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’s husband, Douglas Emhoff, a partner at Big Law behemoth DLA Piper, announced that he would sever all ties with his law firm prior to January’s inauguration. The first Second Gentleman’s decision follows questions about ethics and optics issues that could arise if he stayed on at the firm, whose lobbying clients include Comcast Corp., Raytheon, and the governments of Afghanistan and Puerto Rico. DLA Piper reported that he is currently transitioning his practice as he prepares to take on new responsibilities in support of the Biden-Harris administration. His decision is not novel: Marilyn Quayle, wife of Dan Quayle, George H.W. Bush’s vice president, also gave up her legal career following her partner’s election. 

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