By Staff Report
Mar. 12, 2013
For many Georgia lawyers, March Madness has two meanings. It’s the month when our attention moves to the NCAA basketball tournament. It’s also the deadline for us to complete our prior year’s twelve hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) to maintain our Georgia Bar licenses. So sometime in March, many of us trudge downtown to sit through two days of tedium and meet our requirements.
This past Friday I had a different experience. I attended a sobering presentation on ethics delivered by Egil (Bud) Krogh, one of the White House officials convicted of conspiring to violate civil rights during the Watergate crisis.
Forty years or so ago, Krogh was a 30-year old lawyer reporting to John Ehrlichmann, his mentor and one of President Richard Nixon’s senior advisers. Krogh went from a rising star to a convicted felon. His path to prison, disgrace and disbarment started when he compromised his conscience and values.
Ultimately, Krogh helped orchestrate the ransacking of a psychiatrist’s office in search of “evidence” regarding the physician’s patient, Daniel Ellsberg. Then and now, Bud Krogh struck me as a decent person and I wondered how he could have acted as he did. After hearing his talk, it’s easier to understand.
Krogh let his powerful superiors, including the President of the United States, dictate his direction and override his own judgment and principles. He followed the lead of his mentors when they maintained that national security superseded the rule of law. Additionally, he operated in an environment where those at the top would not listen and did not want to hear positions at odds with theirs. And he occupied an intoxicatingly powerful job. That’s the awful mix that led to his outrageous actions.
Today, we focus on distributing Codes of Conduct, policies, check-the-box learning and other communications to prevent compliance and ethical disasters. Krogh’s message suggests we give greater emphasis to basic leadership and citizenship, not just rote standards. We’d all do well to remember and apply these principles:
In March or any other month, madness would be ignoring Bud Krogh’s simple, tragic lessons. Many have over the past 40 years. And all of us have paid a price.
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