Watergate Revisited: The Ethics of the Lawyers

A forum focused on unraveling and resolving the Watergate scandal that forced President Nixon’s resignation and what the legal profession did and did not learn from this historic event.

Date & Time:

Wednesday, January 2, 2008
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM


University of St. Thomas School of Law

This Medtronic Business and Law Roundtable Public Forum, hosted by the School of Law’s Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, featured four attorneys -- two White House insiders and two members of the prosecution team -- involved in unraveling and resolving the Watergate scandal that forced President Nixon’s resignation discussed what the legal profession did and did not learn from this historic event. This marked the first joint public appearance for two prominent Watergate defendants, John Dean and Bud Krogh, since serving as attorneys in the Nixon White House more than 30 years ago, not to mention their first public discussion of these events with former prosecutors Jill Wine-Banks and Charles Breyer.

Forum speakers were:

  • John Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, who pled guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice, and was the government’s star witness in the Watergate trial of former Attorney General John Mitchell, and former top assistants to the President, H.R. (Bob) Haldeman and John Ehrlichman. Dean is a visiting scholar at the University of Southern California, a columnist for FindLaw.com and well-known bestselling author of nine books; he is currently working on a book about the final Watergate trial for the University of Kansas Press.
  • Egil “Bud” Krogh Jr. was a Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs, who was given the special assignment by President Nixon to be co-director of the secret White House investigative unit known as the “Plumbers”. He pled guilty to a deprivation of civil rights of another person in connection with the activities of that unit. Since Krogh’s readmission to the bar, he has spent the last 27 years practicing energy law and mediation in Washington State. He recently published Integrity: Good People, Bad Choices, and Life Lessons From the White House.
  • Charles Breyer,U.S. District Court Judge, from San Francisco, served as a Watergate prosecutor on the Plumbers Task Force. It was at his Washington, D.C. residence that members of a shaken prosecution team gathered the night Nixon fired the first special prosecutor, Archibald Cox., best known as “the Saturday Night Massacre.”
  • Jill Wine-Banks, Chief Officer, Education To Careers, Chicago Public Schools, was one of three Assistant Special Prosecutors to try the main Watergate case. But she first entered the history books during a pre-trial hearing when she took Nixon’s personal secretary through a public cross-examination when Rose Mary Woods claimed she was responsible for the infamous 18 1/2 minute gap on a key secret tape recording Nixon had made of his first Watergate conversation with Bob Haldeman. Jill Wine-Banks showed that it was physically impossible for Ms. Woods to have erased the tape as she claimed.

This unique public reunion examined how White House lawyers got themselves in trouble and how they dealt with their mistakes, their relationships as cooperating witnesses with the prosecutors, and most importantly, what lessons history indicates were learned from these events, including ethical lessons of continuing interest to all attorneys.

The moderator was former U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug, now with the Minneapolis-based law firm of Fredrikson & Byron.

All programs offered by the University of St. Thomas shall be readily accessible to individuals with disabilities. For details, call (651) 962-6315.