Joel Campbell was appointed to the Ethics and Discipline Committee of the Utah Supreme Court.
BYU associate teaching professor Joel Campbell has been assigned to the Utah Supreme Court’s Ethics and Discipline Committee as one of the committee’s eight public members. The appointment is a big affirmation for Campbell, who has spent a large part of his professional life studying and writing on governmental ethics and accountability.
“I’m a public member of a review panel that reviews violations of ethics and judicial policies and decides whether lawyers ought to receive some sort of cautionary punishment or if they ought to be referred to District Court for more public review,” Campbell explained.
The Ethics and Discipline Committee is composed of 27 members of the bar and eight public representatives. The committee is then split into panels, each of which is responsible for reviewing complaints made against lawyers for unprofessional or unethical conduct. In the case that the panel decides the attorney has acted in an unprofessional or unethical manner they can issue a letter of warning or refer the case to a District Court, at which point a public disciplinary trial is held. Attorneys who are found to be abusing power or manipulating clients or others can be suspended, disbarred or punished in a number of other ways.
“Obviously, I’m honored to be a part of this,” Campbell said. “I think it’s important. We public members feel like we’re protecting the public from lawyers who are acting inappropriately.”
The reporter-turned-teacher has spent much of his professional life working to improve accountability and ethics both in the journalism field and in the government at large.
“I did an integrity project a few years ago where I had the chance to look at judicial rules and policies and ethics policies, and I think that gave me some grounding in what Utah has on the books,” Campbell said.
Campbell worked on the State Integrity Investigation, a nationwide research project conducted by The Center for Public Integrity. Different scholars and academics examined the individual states’ laws and policies regarding the accessibility of information and conflicts of interest and graded the states’ policies accordingly. Many states received a D+ or worse. Campbell was entrusted with researching and writing about Utah’s policies.
“There’s still quite a bit of state government that doesn’t have very good conflict of interest policies, be it financial or familial,” Campbell said. “My concern is that we still have some possibility of conflict of interest that may influence both our legislative, judicial or executive branch. The judicial branch, I think, is the best of the three.”
This said, Campbell believes in Utah’s capacity to improve and in the citizens’ capacity to bring that improvement about. “I think the biggest thing we can do as citizens,” he said, “is demand that some of the laws either be created, since in some cases there’s just no law, or that some of the rules be tightened up about both public accessibility to information and also official reporting about their conflicts of interest and financial interests.”
Photo credit: Nathaniel Ray Edwards