This is a repeat issue, so I could make this short and link to the previous Ethics Alarms post on this annoying subject, or here, when I defended Hillary Clinton when she was being called a hypocrite for once defending a child rapist, or maybe the post titled, No, There Is Nothing Unethical Or Hypocritical About A Feminist Lawyer Defending Roger Ailes.or this post, when liberal icon and former Harvard Law professor Larry Tribe was representing a coal company. I have vowed, however, that if I accomplish nothing else with this blog, I will do my best to put a stake through the ignorant and destructive idea that lawyers only represent clients they agree with, admire, or personally support. Here its is again, the ABA rule that is quoted somewhere in every jurisdiction’s attorney conduct regulations. Let’s do it really big this time:
ABA Model Rule 1.2(b): “A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.”
Got that? Memorize it Print it out and carry it in your wallet, and hand it to your ignorant loud-mouth family member who complains about those scum-bag lawyers who represent bad people. Post it on social media and in online comment sections where people are bloviating about the same. idiotic misconception.
What we can do about Harvard, however, I just don’t know. You know what they say, “Get woke, lose all respect and credibility as a trustworthy advocate for civil rights and the Rule of Law.” Okay, I’m going to have to work on that…
Harvard undergrad and law students are attacking law school Dean Ronald S. Sullivan and demanding that he resign because he joined the team of lawyers defending Harvey Weinstein, the Godfather of #MeToo, who is facing multiple charges of sexual harassment, rape, and sexual assault. Because the Dean is black, the Association of Black Harvard Women wrote in a public letter, “You have failed us.” Law student Danu Mudannayake wrote in a petition, “Do you really want to one day accept your diploma from someone who … believes it is OK to defend such a prominent figure at the center of the #MeToo movement?” You mean from someone who understands what it means to be a lawyer? You shouldn’t get a degree, Danu, until you complete a 500 word essay explaining why what you just wrote should disqualify anyone from admittance to the bar.
Dean Sullivan tried to stem this embarrassing display by saying, “Lawyers are not an extension of their clients.” Representing a client. he pointed out, “doesn’t mean I’m supporting anything the client may have done.” Sounds familiar, no?
Not surprisingly, given that this is academia and today’s professors and administrators place politics over integrity and education when push comes to show, the show of support for Sullivan has been less than ringing. Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana called for a study of how students at the College’s Winthrop House, where Sullivan is housemaster, regard the law professor’s role in the Weinstein case. He called it a “climate review,” review, whatever that means. How about simply telling the students that they don’t know what they are blathering about, and explaining how the legal system works? Another dean, Diana L. Eck, concedes that everyone has the right to a strenuous defense but, on the other hand, Sullivan’s work is “fracturing that sense of community.” Ah. So lawyers really shouldn’t defend unpopular clients. Would someone please dig up Harvard icon John Adams and explain why his defense of the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre trial was insensitive? I guess lawyer Frederick Aiken, the lawyer hero of Robert Redford’s historical film, “The Conspirator,” really was a fool to try to stop his client, Lincoln assassination conspirator Mary Surratt, from being convicted and condemned by a rigged kangaroo court. She was guilty after all, and “everybody” knew it. Why have a trial at all?
I’m not being hyperbolic, unfortunately. As we saw in the Kavanagh hearings, the political left is increasingly hostile to the concept of due process and equal protection of the law, as well as the principle that mere accusations should be sufficient to presume guilt. This pollution of democracy has been bubbling up through the muck for a long time: In a disturbing New York Times op-ed, law professor Deborah L. Rhode argued that lawyers had a “moral” obligation not to represent “bad” clients in civil cases, writing,
“In civil cases, the moral calculus is different. Except in rare circumstances, civil claimants have no right to counsel. The notion that lawyers should check their conscience at the door in these cases has implicated the profession in some of the worst public health and financial crises in the nation’s history. We do not, and should not, applaud the lawyers who enabled clients’ resistance to enforcement of civil rights guarantees or to health warnings about cigarettes. Lawyers, no less than other individuals, have a moral responsibility to consider the consequences of their professional actions.”
Yes, and the consequences of adopting Rhode’s view and the views of the protesting Harvard students would be an end to equal access to a vigorous legal representation and access to the laws of the land. Progressives will just decide whether you deserve your rights or not, and that will be that.
It is a mark of how far this ethics rot has seeped into the culture that Harvard University no longer can muster a full-throated defense of lawyers’ professional imperative.
Pointer: Arthur in Maine