Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement & Political Manipulation at America's Largest Charitable Trust

Discussion Questions

  • Chapter 16:  “That’s Just the Way You Do It”
    • According to the authors, the justices had a “classic conflict of interest.”  In your own words, explain what they mean by that.
    • Why did the justices refuse to meet individually with lawyers from the attorney general’s office, and why did they say that the attorney general could not make them cooperate in her investigation?  What was their concern?
    • The attorney general wanted the justices to “recuse” themselves.  What does that mean?  Why did she think they should do so?  Why did they resist?
    • When the justices announced that they would not personally decide cases arising out of the Bishop Estate investigation, they cited “overheated circumstances” as the reason.  Would that be a good reason to step aside?  Why do you think they did not mention the ex parte communications they had with the attorney general?
    • In your own words, explain why lawyers for “the trust” were in a virtually impossible situation.  What would you do if you had a duty to one client to keep a secret, and a duty to another client to reveal the same secret? 
    • Why do lawyers owe duties of confidentiality and communication to clients?
    • Explain the cartoon on page 215.
    • Based on the description on page 217, do you think anyone committed a crime?  If not, did they do anything wrong?  If you agreed to do business with someone, would you expect him or her to share the profit with you?  Why or why not?
    • The trustees’ lawyers accused attorney general Bronster of “heavy-handed tactics.”  Would that be a bad thing?  Do you agree that her tactics were “heavy-handed?”  If you had been the attorney general, would you have done anything differently?
    • If you were in an important battle of some kind with a person who lied and did other “bad” things that gave that person an advantage over you, would you resort to similar behavior?  Do you think the end ever justifies the means?  Why or why not?
    • What does it mean to “play hardball?”