McDade-Murtha Amendment: Legislation in the 107th Congress Concerning Ethical Standards for Justice Department Litigators Page: 2 of 13
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McDade-Murtha Amendment: Legislation in the 107th
Congress Concerning Ethical Standards for Justice
The McDade-Murtha Amendment, 28 U.S.C. 530B, requires Justice Department
litigators to observe the ethical standards established by the state and local federal
court rules wherever they perform their duties. The Amendment was passed in an
apparent effort to find an effective preventive and corrective mechanism for
prosecutorial abuse. Critics argue that the Amendment can work to impede effective
federal law enforcement efforts. They point particularly to state and local federal
court provisions governing no contact rules, grand jury practices, and professional
Several amendments to McDade-Murtha have been offered during the 107th
Congress. Each has a provision designed to allow federal litigators to initiate, direct,
and advise undercover investigations notwithstanding ethical prohibitions against false
statements and deceitful conduct. The proposals are in response to an Oregon
Supreme Court decision that refused to recognize a law enforcement exception to its
state professional honesty requirements. All but one of the proposals simply add the
undercover exception to McDade-Murtha.
H.R. 1437, however, repeals McDade-Murtha and returns federal litigators to
their pre-existing ethical situtation with several adjustments, i.e.:
- an explicit law enforcement undercover exception to any otherwise applicable
- a specific prohibition against the exclusion of otherwise admissible evidence
based solely upon a prosecutor's ethical violations;
- a study designed to resolve conflicts over the no contact rule (a proscription
against attorneys dealing with the clients of another unbeknownst to their
- a study designed to resolve other conflicts between federal law enforcement
interests and state standards of professional responsibility.
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McDade-Murtha Amendment: Legislation in the 107th Congress Concerning Ethical Standards for Justice Department Litigators, report, December 18, 2001; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc815782/m1/2/: accessed November 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.