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Manning & Kass Supports J. Reuben Clark Law Society's Evening with D. Todd Christofferson at the California Club

The Los Angeles Chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society sponsored an evening with Distinguished Service Award winner and keynote speaker D. Todd Christofferson on October 16, 2015. Also recognized were attorneys Joseph Ivins Bentley, recipient of the 2015 Outstanding Lawyer Award, and Heather Takahashi, who received the 2015 Outstanding Young Lawyer Award. The event, held at the downtown Los Angeles California Club, was organized by Los Angeles Manning & Kass partner Ladell Hulet Muhlestein, who is also president of the Los Angeles J. Reuben Clark Law Society Chapter. Matthew Kearl, senior counsel on the Workers' Compensation Team; firm clients; and guests of the firm, including a second year law student and judge for the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, the Honorable Judge Edward B. Moreton, Jr.; were also in attendance.

Ms. Muhlestein stated, "The evening was a great success. The honorees who received awards as Outstanding Young Attorney and Outstanding Attorney are exceptional attorneys and exemplary people. The address of Elder D. Todd Christofferson, recipient of the Distinguished Serve Award, regarding conscience and lessons he learned as law clerk to Judge Sirica during the Watergate trials was a forceful reminder for all attorneys.  Attendance was at an all-time high, and included a contingent of law students from law schools across Southern California and guests representing various faiths in the Los Angeles religious community." (It is an LDS custom to refer to members of the a church governing body known as the Quorum of the Twelve, such as Christofferson, as "Elder.")

Members of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society affirm "the strength brought to the law by a lawyer's personal, religious conviction." The society is named after Joshua Reuben Clark, Jr. (September 1, 1871 – October 6, 1961) who was an American attorney, civil servant, and a prominent leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Clark was a prominent attorney in the Department of State, and Under Secretary of State for U.S. president Calvin Coolidge. In 1930 Clark was appointed United States Ambassador to Mexico. (Source: Wikipedia)

Elder Christofferson's riveting talk on conscience included a first-person description of listening to the Watergate tapes. Hearing Nixon speak with his daughter, for example, Christofferson conveyed that Nixon seemed normal and benevolent, like any other devoted father. This led to a deep questioning on Christofferson's part as to how Nixon became ensnared in corruption to such an extent that he was later forced to resign. Christofferson discussed Professor Robert P. George of Princeton University, who, in an article called “Liberty and Conscience” published in the Fall 2013 edition of National Affairs ( pages 135-136) quotes 19th-century theologian John Henry Newman (also referred to as Cardinal Newman) as follows:

“Conscience has rights because it has duties; but in this age, with a large portion of the public, it is the very right and freedom of conscience to dispense with conscience ... Conscience is a stern monitor, but in this century it has been superseded by a counterfeit, which the eighteen centuries prior to it never heard of. It is the right of self-will.”

Professor George adds: "Conscience as “self-will” is a matter of feeling or emotion, not reason. It is concerned not so much with the identification of what one has a duty to do or not to do, one’s feelings or desires to the contrary notwithstanding, but rather, and precisely, with sorting out one’s feelings. Conscience as self-will identifies permissions, not obligations. It licenses behaviors by establishing that one does not feel bad about engaging in them.”        

Elder Christofferson summarized:  “It was the absence of conscience, or at least an inadequate commitment to conscience as “a stern monitor,” that permitted Watergate to happen.”