The Ethics of Letting a Lying Defendant Testify

It’s snowing like crazy outside, and I’m stuck putting the lights on a nine-foot tree.  My only escape from the pine needles assaulting my tender skin is ethics reverie, and I find myself thinking, once again, about the classic criminal defense attorney’s ethical challenge:

What do you do when your guilty client wants to claim he’s innocent in the witness chair, under oath? Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Rep. Bobby Scott

A popular, effective and unethical prosecutorial practice among federal investigators is to coerce  businesses and individuals into waiving the attorney client privilege by threatening indictments. The privilege of having absolutely private communications with one’s attorneys in order to get legal advice is a linchpin of the justice system and each citizen’s access to fair treatment under the law.  Forcing individuals to give the privilege up under threat of prosecution is and has always been wrong; after all, a waiver made under a threat is hardly “voluntary.”  U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, (D-Va.), has now introduced H.R. 4326, complementing legislation filed in the Senate earlier this year by U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, to bar this practice. Continue reading

“The Good Wife” and Bad Ethics

Julianna Margulies’ latest attempt to find another hit series after “ER” is a lawyer drama, “The Good Wife.” It tells of the travails and trials of a former litigator who returns to law firm practice after her prosecutor husband, played by “Mr. Big” Chris Noth, is sent to the slammer in a scandal that also involved marital infidelity. As lawyer dramas go, “The Good Wife” is fairly good about not distorting the legal ethics rules. It still slips up, however, as this week’s episode showed. Continue reading