The specific provision of the judicial ethics code defines gifts as something that is received “without valuable consideration.” The contract that gave Michael Best a possibility of recovering legal fees was “valuable consideration” and thus the legal services were not a gift, Gableman attorney Viet Dinh of Washington, D.C., wrote in a letter to the Journal Sentinel.
Stephen Gillers, a New York University Law School professor who specializes in legal ethics, took issue with that characterization.
“Under no circumstances, win, lose, or draw, would Gableman ever have to pay a nickel for the services, regardless of their value and putting aside disbursements,” Gillers wrote in an email. “That’s the very meaning of ‘free.’
“When a client gets representation and will never have to pay for it no matter what happens in the case, the client got free services. Any other characterization of the arrangement is wrong.”