Yes, even the 2020 Presidential race’s worst panderer and #1 demagogue deserves the same leave as any other lawyer, which is not to be held responsible for her client’s views and deeds. Every lawyer who ever runs for office or who comes within the cross-hairs of unethical pundits faces these attacks, which I have written about here repeatedly and pledged to address any time they come to my attention. “Elizabeth Warren’s Days Defending Big Corporations” warns the Times, hinting at hypocrisy by noting,
“Ms. Warren has ascended toward the head of the Democratic presidential pack on the strength of her populist appeal and progressive plans, which include breaking up big technology companies, free public college and a wealth tax on the richest Americans…Against that backdrop, some of Ms. Warren’s critics have seized upon her bankruptcy work for LTV and other big corporations to question the depth of her progressive bona fides. How, they wonder, could someone whose reputation is built on consumer advocacy have represented a company seeking to avoid paying for retired miners’ health care?
Here’s how: a lawyer’s personal convictions, values and beliefs are completely irrelevant to her clients or choice of clients. Those who think otherwise don’t understand legal ethics, or lawyers, or their function in society. For the heaven-knows-how many-teenth time, here is critical Rule 1.2 b of the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct:
ABA Model Rule 1.2 b, which reads,
(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.
This bedrock principle means that lawyers represent clients, and are bound to seek those clients’ objectives when those objectives are legal whether the lawyer likes or agrees with those objectives or not.
Let’s see…which of the many posts about this issue should I recall? The recent one about Harvard Law Professor Ron Sullivan, when Harvard’s ignorance on this topic made me wish I had attended Yale? No, let’s pick this one, my favorite, defending Hillary Clinton, whom you all know I’m so fond of, before the last Presidential election:
It means that it is ignorant, wrong and dangerous to the rule of law as well as the right of citizens to be the beneficiaries of laws in a democracy and not the servants of them, for unscrupulous political opponents to attack lawyers for the positions, objectives and needs of the clients they represented. It means that it is disgusting for maleducated journalists to misinform the already disturbingly confused public by using a matter that a lawyer-turned-candidate’s client needed legal advocacy for as an excuse to impugn the candidate’s character.
Lawyers do not have to agree with or like their clients’ positions, objectives or character, is that clear? Everybody? Lawyers are not to be held accountable for their client’s motives, conduct or legal objectives. Bill Cosby’s lawyers do not approve of rapists. Johnnie Cochran did not support the hobby of ex-wife knifing.
Yet this happens every election cycle, without fail: cheap shots directed at candidates who are lawyers based on one or more of their unsavory clients.
That will do, I think.
Until the next time.