Legal Ethics and Reform
Two Important Groups Have Overlapping Dysfunctional Characteristics
The legal community has a lot in common with the black community. Note a few similarities:
1) Both groups generally classify themselves as exceptional, that is somewhat above the mores and morals that the rest of society feels constrained by.
2) Both groups have members that are really "loose cannons" in society, think of a young black man that engages in serial anti social behavior (e.g. selling drugs, impregnating multiple women, etc.) also think of the lawyer who uses his legal skill to accomplish evil ends (e.g. he coaches his witness to shade the truth while they are testifying, he browbeats opposing witnesses hoping for an inadvertant misstatement to exploit, he files a frivolous lawsuit to force another party to pay an undeserved settlement simply to avoid extended litigation, etc.).
3) Think of the response of older or more highly regarded members of these groups to the bad behavior exhibited by members of their group; (e.g. think of the older respected lawyers who turn a blind eye when a young prosecutor is caught using his prosecutorial powers to browbeat an innocent person into a guilty plea to a lesser charge or coaching a police officer to withhold facts when testifying in a criminal trial; also think of the black grandmother who defends loudly her grandson who has been expelled from school for disrupting his class).
4) Both groups suffer reputational damage from the relatively few disreputable actors who give entire group a bad name (e.g. some young black males commit a lot of crimes against property and people; some lawyers use the high cost, slow legal system to threaten innocent people with undeserved civil or criminal charges that injure people financially and emotionally).
5) Both groups seem to have lost their objectivity about the need for change; think of the resistance that proposals for change to each groups' basic culture encounter (e.g. lawyers defend the legal system even in the face of studies and statistics that show much better results coming from different legal systems already in use elsewhere in the world; blacks loudly defend their right to dress sloppily, use ebonics, engage in promiscuous sexual behavior, etc.). Perhaps both groups are too imbedded in their questionable cultures to initiate change without help from the broader outside society.
6) Both of these groups cause the American economy to suffer grievously (e.g. businesses can't operate in black neighborhoods because of the criminal activity of young blacks, lawyers scare people to the point where those who might open a small business and hire people don't for fear of undeserved litigation).
7) Despite the forgoing, both these groups are possessed of an unusual willingness to issue direction to the rest of society. (e.g. lawyers with no relevant work experience do not hesitate to crowd into regulatory posts where they issue rules and regulations to people who actually do the work and understand the tasks that are being regulated far better than these lawyer regulators , blacks speak forcefully at public forums, (e.g. school board meetings, city council meetings, etc.) making demands which are oftentimes not informed by adequate knowledge of subjects under discussion.).
Of course, there are major differences between these two groups as well as strong similarities. These differences include:
1) lawyers tend to be higher incomes than blacks.
2) lawyers tend to have more education than blacks,
3) lawyers are generally considered to be America's aristocracy while blacks are still suffering from the effects of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.
4) blacks when they get caught in their mis-behavior are punished severely by the justice system and their wrongs become a matter of public record. For instance, young black men are seven times more likely to serve time in prison than young white men. Lawyers, on the other hand, when they get caught can expect mild sanctions issued by a judge or committee of the bar association. These sanctions rarely get publicized in any public record.
This is a strange situation where sever abhorrent behavior is commonly being found at both the highest end of society and the lowest end of society; a bar bell phenomenon worth noting. Fortunetly middle America has kept its equilibrium. It has not taken up these harmful behaviors to any great degree.
A word or two needs to be said about the common causes of these failures. Perhaps the key fact is that the broader society has set both lawyers and blacks into special categories; in a sense on pedestals. The black community was put on its pedestal because of the terrible experiences of slavery and segregation. The inherent assumption that blacks would exercise internal self control within their families and their broader culture, to replace the external control imposed by segregation, has proved, so far, to be unfounded. Lawyers were put on their pedestal because it was felt that truth arises from the clash of forces enshrined in the adversary legal system. So lawyers are allowed wide latitude in “pursuing truth” via the legal system. This assumption, that lawyers would exercise internal self restraint on this wide latitude, has proved false.
To be fair to both communities.. It must be noted that the black community has been systematically deprived of their natural leaders as standardized testing has identified and allowed “high end” educational institutions to suck these talented future leaders out of and away from these black communities. In the legal community there is noticeable tendency for morally sensitive lawyers to abandon the profession for non-legal jobs elsewhere. This trend deprives the legal community of just the people it needs to begin correcting the problems noted above. .
What steps should be taken to reverse these related problems? For blacks, a massive program to educate black parents and grandparents about the importance of giving teachers and school administrators wide latitude in disciplining young blacks. Early, steady discipline is essential to help these young restless blacks find their way to a successful adulthood. For lawyers, disciplinary hearings need to be opened up to the public. Any discipline meted out to a wayward lawyer needs to be publicized widely with perhaps each bar association maintaining a web-site showing disciplinary determinations. All complaints against a lawyer, whether from a former client, witness who had been browbeaten, or whomever, should be published whether or not displine was meted out to the offending lawyer. Judges sometimes have to charge lawyers with contempt for their misbehave during trials, all such judicial findings should also be posted to public web-sites as well.
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