Legal Ethics and Reform

Insightful Comments from Thoughtful People

Note: Comments are added as they are received and verified. Check back often to have your preconceptions about our legal system challenged by the observations of the many thoughtful, insightful people who visit this WebSite. If you would like to submit a comment e-mail the author, Hugh Murray.

    I am a law review graduate of the Univ. of Pa Law School. Retired as partner at Jones, Day, Cockley & Reavis in 1972 so that I could be trial lawyer who dealt in the truth and not spin and delay and obstruction of the truth.  Fortunately, as a young associate I had the opportunity on vacation to sit through two trials in British courtrooms.  The level playing field in which the Barristers did not brook any nonsence from each other other or judge, and vice versa, all with the greatest civility changed my view of what trial lawyer should be.  This was only confirmed by a small book on the art of advocacy, which had as its central core, how to use the truth, and nothing but the truth,  in a trial. When I retruned to the US, I threw away all my , how to win treatises, realizing that they really should be entitled how to win regardless of the facts and the law.

    I take CLE courses and have waited pateintly for years to have a lecturer, lean over the podium and offer to tell , How to get the truth out of your clients and witnesses.  At one seminar a Judge turned to audience of young lawyers and warned, "You can be one hundred percent right on the facts and onehunderd percent right on the law, if the judge does not think the result is fair."  He was a garolous man who talked into through the question period, so I was unable to ask him to explicate to these young lawyers the techniques by which a judge avoids the factual truth and the law.

    We all know, expecially, if you are a sole practitioner arrayed against a prominent hired gun hired gun.- misrepresentation, fabrication and evasion of the record. If you cannot get around a conrolling contention of the losing party eitheir ignore it or amend it so that you can knock down your deviously constructed strawman, etc.

    It is a fiction that appellat judges are inhibited from engaging in this chicanery because their opinions are subject to review by a Supreme Courtr and analysis by other lawyers.  I know it and judges know it, in only about a miniscule number of civil case will the Supreme Court grant review.  Other lawyers couldn't care less about what was done, and how it was done, to your client's rights, they been there and they have been conditioned to preserve their "judge freindly" reputations by keeping their mouths shut.

    What is the solution?  I have always taken the logical position that mistakes when brought to the attention of the person making it are corrected,  If not corrected or explained the inference is compelled that what was done was not a mistake, but deliberate.  I always, file an application for reconsideration, if I am convinced the the court made a "mistake" on a controlling issue of fact or law.  If the response is a one-liner denying the application without explanation, I know that my client was a victim of judicial misconduct and, at my own expense petiton the Ohio Supreme Court to accept the case for review, even though I know that these eminent judges are not going to establish any precedent tying their and other judges hands when they seek to make a case come out to suit their fancy, regardless of the law and the facts.

I have two recent case in which, when I can find the time I am going to file a complaint with the Disciplinary Authorities.  I filed on several years ago, only to have the Disciplinary Counsel refuse to make the judges explain the fraudulent decision.  We have a new Disciplinary Counsel, maybe my complaints will be fully investigated.

    I like my fellow practitioners as people.  As professionals, I find them only to willing to enagage efforts to strangle and obstruct the truth in the name of zeallously representing their clients.   When appellate judges use chicanery to to devastae their clients rights, the they dumb out, shrug their shoulders, and tell their clients that this is the way the system works.

    On current example,  our local appellate court [Cuayahoga County, Ohio] consists of 12 judges, sitting in panels of three.  How they are assigned to specific question is governed by oral procedure, described to me by the Court Administrator as "Internal Confidential Operating Procedures." You find out the make-up of the panel assigned to your case when you walk into the court for oral argument.  Their is no written docket tracking what has happened since they were assigned, recussals, trading, etc.  I have for several years as a member of the Appellate Courts Committee of the Cleveland Bar Association, continued to bug my prestigous members to do something about this.  Like judges playing games, my requests and comment are not recorded in the minutes, and they think they are being courageous in deciding to request the court to advise them of the panel assignment two weeks before oral argument.  I was appalled when several years ago, the chief judge at a litigation section meeting announced that it was a dischargeable offense for and employee [not a judge???] of the court to disclose the assignemment.  I could not believe the answer  when I turned to a staff attorney at my table and asked, "What possible reason reason is there for this?'  The answer, " The judges don't want to be bothered with lawyers calling them up to argue their cases."  Not ever letting myself get dumbed out on the subject of judges, it immediately dawned on me that there many lawyers who had a cozy enough relation with these judges that they could make such a call and not be reported to the Disciiplinary Authorities.. I have, have subsequently learned that their are some lawyers who can find out, obviously from a member of the Court, the make-up of the panel assigned to a case.

    The Bar Associations are not help.  For example, recently the court proposed a rule forbidding the writer of an opinion to identify the trial judge and the trial lawyers involved. The President of our Bar Asscociation, the managing partner of one of our large firms, refused to endorse the reccomendation of the Appellate Courts Committee to oppose the rule. The reason.  The judge who proposed the rule is "a good judge."

    I've got to run. Believe me when I tell you that the above barely scratches the surface of my forty-five years as a trial and appellate lawyer.  Sadly, I was never well enough organized to keep a daily diary,  If I had I probably could have done more to reform our system and even to have proof read the above.

    I would appreciate any comments, suggestions and, most of all arational rebuttal of the above.

submitted by: Crede Calhoun;  2511 Euclid Heights Blvd.; Cleveland Heights, OH 44106; 216-397-0555;

..."When I saw the words LEGAL ETHICS, I thought now that's an oxymoron if I've ever saw one ... When I saw the next two words, AND REFORM, I thought whoever put this together is a real Don Quixote."

Submitted by: Steve Lang of St. Louis County after reading the words LEGAL ETHICS AND REFORM.

"It's to bad the popular preception of lawyers is so poor. I have known many lawyers over the course of my life, and I will graduate from law school next May -- I have found and know many good and decent law students and lawyers, I do not see lawyers as having a much greater percentage of 'bad apples' than a similiar slice or segment in other parts of society."

"As far as how involved lawyers tend to get into the political process, seems like many lawyers come to law school because they think they can use the law to make a difference in people's lives in a positive way -- the same thing that eventually leads many into politics. To characterize lawyers as interested in politics because they have an inherent need for control is terriblly stereotypical and in my opinion inaccuracte, when its just as easy (and more accurate in my opinion) to say that lawyers, who want to change peoples lives for the better, to enter politics with the same goal.

I find your analysis of the typical lawyer profile to be somewhat lacking and one sided -- perhaps as much as mine seems one sided in an oppisite way. Your religion- oriented view of lawyers tries to say much about how morally bankrupty lawyers are when you are quick to critize Lincoln, but you also fail to credit lawyers for many acchomplishments, strides, goals which many have pushed or helped accomplish (as have many Anericas) since the country was founded.

I certainly have no hope of changing your mind on any of these issue which you seem set on believing, nevertheless I felt obligated to state my disapproval of your views.

. Submitted by Jim McHie, a law student from Indiana

Dear Mr. Murray:

I've been reading this web site of yours, and I've got one word to describe it--excellent. It's obvious you've done your homework about the disgraceful American legal system, and about possibilities for reform.

Truth be told, lawyers are nothing but legalized criminals. Look at the perpetual scandals and conflict-of-interest problems in Washington. Who's involved in them? Yeah, that's right-- shysters. Hillary (The First Shyster) Clinton is a lawyer, as is her husband, the Lincoln-like (chuckle, chuckle, giggle, giggle) President Bill Clinton. (I don't see any bar associations doing a damned thing about the Clintons' ethical failings, either!)

One of the books you cite--The Trouble With Lawyers by Murray Teigh Bloom--put it best: "The law--which is made by lawyers, administered by lawyers, and adjudged by lawyers--is inevitably protective of the stupid, lazy and inept practitioner."

That guy said a mouthful!


Orville H. Larson

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Thanks for the (reference to the) Manhattan (Institute) site - looks interesting - ultimately this problem is so, so complicated, but ultimately, and at the risk of oversimplification, I think the answer lies in dismantling the the adversarial system, and while I haven't spent that much time on it, I have seen some good papers contemplating each major area of law, and proposing a non-adversarial solution that, in my view, is unquestioningly better, and reduces unnecessary complexity etc. and "make work" projects, and increases access to justice by removing the monopoly lawyers currently hold over the legal system. Slowly phasing out the adversarial system, in favour of one based on co-operation, or inquisition, together with slowly reducing the number of lawyers in society (by closing law schools) I think provides the answer. And if all these people who would have otherwise have been lawyers can't find a job because there isn't enough work to do, we should reduce the work week so everyone can enjoy more time off. Or maybe these bright people can spend their time innovating new products or technologies. I think the internet may also help drive this revolution. Best Regards,

. a Canadian lawyer













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