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NIU general counsel Jerry Blakemore presents at national conference of higher ed attorneys

June 30, 2011
Jerry D. Blakemore and Jennifer L. Weston

Jerry D. Blakemore and Jennifer L. Weston

NIU general counsel Jerry D. Blakemore participated in a panel discussion Monday, June 27, at the annual meeting of the National Association of College and University Attorneys in San Francisco.

Blakemore presented a paper he wrote with the assistance of Jennifer L. Weston, a legal intern in his office and a third-year law student in the NIU College of Law, titled “Ethics: Knowing When to Go Up the Ladder Reporting Malfeasance of College Executives and Board Members.”

“The legal and, just as importantly, ethical obligations of an attorney to report malfeasance have profound professional and personal implications for both the attorney and the institution which the attorney represents,” their paper begins.

“Federal and state jurisdictions are often in conflict regarding reporting requirements and in many cases, jurisdictions neither prohibit nor require reporting of malfeasance but are ‘permissive;’ leaving to the attorney the responsibility to make the judgment based on the particular circumstances,” the paper continues later.

“What is certain is the ‘career changing’ or ‘career ending’ implications of making the right or wrong decision.”

The paper concludes with an appeal to higher education attorneys to “have as clear of an understanding of our legal and ethical obligations as possible, being cognizant of the reality that this area of law is not well settled.”

Meanwhile, “we will also need to be more proactive in educating and training our clients and establishing policies and procedures to detect and correct malfeasance.

“Our greatest obligation, however, is to take all necessary steps to comply with our most sacred obligation, which is to ‘exercise independent professional judgment and render candid advice.’ ”

The Chronicle of Higher Education covered the panel.