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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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Law professor wins Maguire ethics award

The Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility announced Assistant Professor of Law Jeffrey D. Kahn as the recipient of the 2007-2008 Maguire Teaching Fellow Award.

The Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility was founded in 1995. Terri Gwinn, the coordinator for the center, said, “It was founded as a place where students, faculty and staff could all come together to talk about ethics.” The center exists to recognize, honor and encourage ethical behavior throughout the SMU campus and in the Dallas area. The Maguire award “was started to promote ethics in a greater variety of classes,” said Gwinn.

Kahn received his B.A. from Yale University in 1994, a Doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford in 1996, and a J.D. from the University of Michigan in 2002, according to a biography on SMU’s Web site. Kahn’s doctoral dissertation was published by Oxford University Press as Federalism, Democratization, and the Rule of Law in Russia. (2002) Also, Kahn served as a trial attorney in the Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice before coming to SMU.

Kahn, an assistant professor at the Dedman School of Law, was given the award for adding an ethical focus to his course, “Perspectives on Counterterrorism.” This course examines legal issues that have arisen in the “War on Terror.” The students evaluate what ethical role laws and lawyers should play during such times.

The Maguire Award is given to a member of the faculty who incorporates an ethical component to an already existing course. Gwinn said, “We offer money to a professor who includes ethics as a part of their class.”

However, not everyone who applies will win the award. There is a strict application policy in which applicants must submit their course syllabus and discuss how they are going to implement an ethical component to their courses. Gwinn said, “This award is a ‘thank you’ to professors who add an ethical focus to their course.”

Through Kahn’s course students will gain a better sense of legal ethics and professional responsibility in the context of the “War on Terror.” In regard to ethical decisions, “Most issues are not black and white; the hardest part is figuring out how gray the issue is,” Kahn said. “My students should confront some of the ethical issues that a lawyer must face in such extraordinary times, whether in the service of his or her government or in the course of representing a private client.”

Kahn thinks that it is important for his students to have a sense of ethical responsibility from three perspectives. He said, “It is a test of professional responsibility… [ethics] are important because we participate in our democracy as lawyers, human beings and citizens.”

Specifically, Kahn’s course implements ethics in his course through fact patterns and case studies. For example, Kahn uses the “Ticking Time Bomb” example to explore the critical interplay of ethics and state action to combat terrorism. Suppose a state interrogator is convinced a suspect has planted a bomb about to explode. But how far can the interrogator go to extract this information?

The question is raised then about how to interrogate the suspect. What means of force should be used? Do you use force to discover where the bomb is located?These are the types of discussions that Kahn will conduct in his course.

Kahn said people should, “think globally, act locally…every person has a responsibility to be an active citizen.”

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