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The Ethics of Using Judges to Conceal Wrongdoing

30 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2006  

John P. Freeman

University of South Carolina


Given a long and strong societal bias in favor of public disclosure about important issues, including legal issues, the modest moves by South Carolina's federal and state judiciary favoring less secrecy in lawsuit settlements ought to have gone unnoticed for being predictable and unexceptionable. Instead, the South Carolina jurists' efforts to bring sunshine to the settlement process have garnered significant national attention and a fair amount of opposition. Despite our nation's bias in favor of accurate, honest disclosure about important public matters, South Carolina finds itself today amongst a distinct minority of states featuring a statutory or court-rule created restraint on secrecy agreements in the settlement context.

This Article examines the importance of openness in court-related matters from a somewhat unconventional perspective. It argues that, in many cases, lawyers and judges need look no further than their professional ethical obligations in order to decide that they cannot participate in furthering secrecy agreements relating to legal disputes.

Keywords: ethics, judges, wrongdoing, disclosure, suppress evidence, ethical obligations, judge, impropriety, misconduct, duty, duty to report, fraud, Brandeis

JEL Classification: K00, K42

Suggested Citation

Freeman, John P., The Ethics of Using Judges to Conceal Wrongdoing. South Carolina Law Review, Vol. 55, p. 826, 2004. Available at SSRN:

John P. Freeman (Contact Author)

University of South Carolina ( email )

701 Main Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

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