Program on Ethics, Compliance & Inclusion announces winners of 2021 Smith-Doheny Legal Ethics Writing Competition

Author: Denise Wager


Notre Dame Law School’s Program on Ethics, Compliance & Inclusion has announced the winners of the 2021 Smith-Doheny Legal Ethics Writing Competition.

Eric Singerman, a rising third-year student at the University of Chicago Law School, was the first-place winner. Recent Notre Dame Law School graduate Daniel Judge ’21 J.D. took home the second prize.

Professor Veronica Root Martinez, director of the Law School’s Program on Ethics, Compliance & Inclusion, said, “We are thrilled we received so many excellent submissions for the 2021 Smith-Doheny Legal Ethics Writing Competition. Eric and Daniel’s papers are important and valuable contributions to the field of legal ethics, and we are pleased to have the opportunity to recognize them for their outstanding work.”

Singerman’s paper, “A Third Way: The Legal Ethics of Fugitive Slave Lawyers,” centers on the lawyers who defended fugitive slaves in trials that determined whether the “fugitives” would be sent back to slavery. He focused on the lawyers’ ethical beliefs, arguing that they exhibited a brand of professional ethics that were unique for their time but have mostly been glossed over by historians.

At the University of Chicago Law School, he is involved in the Global Human Rights Clinic, the Public Interest Law Society, and served as a student representative on the civilian review board for the University of Chicago Police Department. After graduation, Singerman will clerk for Judge Kathleen Cardone of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

In his paper, “Determining the Mental Competency to Plea: Evaluating a Defense Attorney’s Role During Plea Bargaining,” Judge examines the unique duties and responsibilities of defense attorneys who represent clients who suffer from mental illness. Citing that people suffering from mental illness often plead guilty, Judge concludes that defense attorneys are in the best position to evaluate the mental competency of their clients, and courts, legislatures, and bar associations need to consider reforms to competency standards and ethical guidelines.

While at Notre Dame Law School, Judge was the executive notes editor for the Notre Dame Law Review, a member of the Moot Court Board’s Seventh Circuit Team, and an inaugural participant in the Religious Liberty Initiative student cohort. This fall, he will clerk for University of Notre Dame alumnus Judge Michael B. Brennan ’86 of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

The Smith-Doheny Legal Ethics Writing Competition is an annual contest, first started in 1997, that looks for the best papers on legal ethics among U.S. and Canadian law students. Selections are made through a “blind” review process and winners receive a cash prize.