We previously covered the interesting story of the dispute between staff attorneys at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the political appointee, Frank Lindh, who oversees the lawyers. Following the catastrophic pipeline explosion and fire in San Bruno (LA Times pics), the staff wants PG&E to pay money into the state's general fund but Lindh wants the money spent on improvements to the pipeline system. Eventually the staff lawyers managed to get themselves re-assigned from the case.
According to this ALM story, at a recent conference of regulatory lawyers, Lindh gave a speech using a "hypothetical" and implicitly criticized the staff lawyers, who were in the audience and who heckled Lindh. Apparently it was quite a scene -- who says admin law is boring? -- but what interests me are the classic legal ethics questions raised by the affair: who's the client? Who decides for the client? Do government lawyers have a different duty? At what point should a lawyer resign from a matter? When you do resign in protest, how far can you go in publicly commenting on the reasons for your departure? The speech contains a useful hypo for exploring that.
Here is Lindh's speech, titled, "“REFLECTIONS ON THE SPECIAL ROLE OF ATTORNEYS AS CONSUMER ADVOCATES IN REGULATORY PROCEEDINGS”