Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, September 25, 2020

Lessons learned from Watergate, Dean’s role

CBA seminar will focus on reporting fraud

Attorney, author and social commentator Jim Robenalt.

The last time Jim Robenalt spoke with the Chattanooga Bar Association, he offered a rousing tale of the torrid affair between Warren Harding and a German spy named Carrie Phillips, set against the backdrop of the First World War.

In his next seminar for the CBA, Robenalt will present a portrait of John Dean, the government whistleblower at the heart of Watergate and the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.

Forty-five years ago, Dean became the most prominent lawyer whistleblower in American history when his testimony resulted in the only resignation of a sitting U. S. president and started a revolution in legal ethics.

Since Watergate, federal law has changed under the False Claims Act, Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank, the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act and more, prompting questions regarding a lawyer’s role as a whistleblower, given his or her duty of confidentiality and duty of loyalty.

Robenalt’s seminar aims to provide the historical context to the question of when lawyers can – or must – report ongoing or future crime or fraud.

Robenalt has presented more than 150 speeches and programs with Dean in which the two men use Dean’s experience as a case study for the requirements to report up and report out the behavior of clients. In his upcoming solo presentation for the CBA, Robenalt will tap numerous White House recordings – some only recently released – to tie together historical perspective and current reality.

Program highlights include an “inside” look at how Watergate happened, how it was exposed and the decisions that led to the downfall of a presidency.

Robenalt will also cover how ethics rules changed as a result of Watergate and how they impact modern legal practices.

Robenalt is a partner at Thompson Hine’s Cleveland, Ohio, office and former chair of the firm’s business litigation group. He has won big verdicts for his clients, including an $81 million jury verdict on international espionage case for Avery Dennison and a $68 million arbitration award on a drug co-promotion agreement for Solvay Pharmaceuticals.

Robenalt is also the author of three nonfiction books dealing with the American presidency, including “Linking Rings: William W. Durbin and the Magic and Mystery of America,” “The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage During the Great War” and “January 1973: Watergate, Roe v. Wade, Vietnam, and the Month that Changed America Forever.”

His most recent release is entitled “Ballots and Bullets: Black Power Politics and Urban Guerrilla Warfare in 1968 Cleveland.”

In 2011, Robenalt combined his talents with Dean to create The Watergate CLE, which they have presented all across America, including Chattanooga.

While maintaining his active law practice, Robenalt also provides regular contributions to the History News Network, HuffPost, Politico, Washington Post, Cleveland Plain Dealer and Time and Newsweek magazines. He is also a commentator on NPR.

Robenalt is scheduled to present “Lawyers as Whistleblowers: What Watergate Teaches Us About Legal Ethics” to the CBA via Zoom Thursday, Oct. 22, 1-4:45 p.m. Registrants will earn three dual CLE hours.

The cost is $100 for CBA members, $125 for non-members and $45 for paralegals, legal assistants and legal administrators.

Registration: lhood@chattanoogabar.org, visit www.chattanoogabar.org.

Sources: Jim Robenalt; the Chattanooga Bar Association