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Observations and Lessons from Client 9

March 13, 2008

If nothing else, the scandal and resignation of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer this past week has brought up a fascinating and almost 100 year federal law commonly known as the Mann Act.  Officially named the United States White-Slave Traffic Act, the intent behind the law was to prevent the interstate transport of females for “immoral purposes.”  Such historical luminaries such as Charlie Chaplin, Chuck Berry and Jack Johnson have all been targets of prosecution under this law.

Of course, many cynics would point out that ex-Governor Spitzer’s situation is just the latest example of an improper and immoral “man act.”  Specifically limiting the examples to our profession, Eliot Spitzer joins a list of prominent lawyers/politicians such as Clarence Thomas, Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, Jim McGreevey and others who have been implicated in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone other than their wife.   Some would say it’s something endemic to people in their position and power, and maybe there is something to that theory.  For many of those implicated, it has not been a case of having marital problems at home.  In fact, you can watch just about every press conference after these scandals and notice the wife standing by her man like Tammy Wynette.  Instead, they become involved in these activities because they have the money, power and opportunity to do so.  Some people with the means become involved in drugs; others choose different vices and temptations.  In none of these cases has the alleged activity ever been properly justified or defended.

The typical Philadelphia young lawyer doesn’t have the same money, power or opportunity to get into nearly as much hot water.  Our status, however, does still require us to act responsibly and avoid trouble.  Ex-Governor Spitzer noted this past week that he acted in a way that violated his obligations to his office and family.  We too must be mindful of our many obligations.  Avoiding escort services is probably a good start.    

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