Monday, June 18, 2007

The A, B, Cs of legal ethics

Lawyers like to talk about ethics. The non-lawyer can have a difficult task trying to quantify where an attorney fits in on the ethical scale. Here is my rating system to try to help you along.

"I have spent all my life under a communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Grade A - An A can not be achieved in the present legal system because of its flaws- that is why I have the Solzhenitsyn quote. (Go to the link to read his complete statement) Ironically, primitive people had the right idea when they would arbitrate disputes with extended family and attempted to work out liveable solutions. For an A - truth and mercy have to be combined to make justice. Participants have to spill their guts and all facts must be laid bare. Americans should be arbitrated family disputes such as custody and visitation since the parties must live with the results for decades.

Grade B - This is given to those attorneys who follow the ABA Rules of Professional Responsibility. (link?) Inherent in ethical practice is the right of privilege-an attorney does not have to reveal the truth which was revealed by a client. Many injustices result thereby.

Grade C- This is known as the sharp practice. The attorney is really a jerk, he follows the rules but is moralely bankrupt. For instance, serving papers on someone at Friday close of business for a Friday hearing at 10 AM the next week. The party will be unable to try to get an attorney until Monday and must consult by Thursday or be unprepared.

Grade D - This is the unactionable zone for unethical behavior. The standard to punish a lawyer is Clear, Congent, and Compelling evidence. This is almost to the extent of "beyond reasonable doubt". A hard standard to prove.

Grade E - This is the actionable zone. The conduct is so bad and blatent that you are disbarred and disgraced. For instance, Mike Nifong, had made statements recorded by video and sound that the bar alleged were unethical...Hard to beat video evidence, in fact he stipulated to the facts of the videos before his hearing.


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