Legal Professional Ethics Shouldn’t Be Multiple Choice

Now that a judge’s ruling has stated that former Attorney General Bill Barr outright lied about the Mueller Report, misleading, obstructing, and deflecting at the expense of the American people and our democratic rule of law known as the Constitution, I keep wondering, will he ever be held accountable for his crimes? Because it sure took long enough for this to come to light, given it was obvious to some of us from the get-go.

And will the legal profession itself address this stark and dangerous issue of a decided lack of professional ethics displayed by so many lawyers in the public eye? Because when an attorney general of the United States appears to lack any modicum of ethical behavior, we’ve got a problem.

I address this dearth of legal ethics beginning with book one of my Other Worldly series, Alienable Rights. Wherein, protagonist Rowan Layne is preparing to take a multistate professional responsibility exam, which covers the American Bar Association Rules of Professional Conduct, as part of the requirement to sit for the Nevada State Bar.

It’s been twenty years since Rowan took this test to first become a lawyer and member of the State Bar of California, but it’s required of anyone seeking to be admitted to the practice of a law in a different state.

This would be a good thing, if it actually had any bearing on whether a lawyer will follow the law and do so in an ethical manner. Taking a test like this also means nothing if it’s the beginning and end of any attempt to hold attorneys accountable for rules of the profession.

Plus, there’s something decidedly twisted about so much security necessary for this exam in particular. As Rowan Layne explains in Alienable Rights:

Security measures were beyond insane due to cheating methods wannabe lawyers concocted to make extreme precautions a necessary evil.

Furthermore, Rowan not only laments that this test is multiple choice—not her favorite thing—she has this to say while studying the night before the exam:

…I closed the curtains to concentrate on something only slightly less nausea inducing, professional ethics of lawyers and judges.

There’s a big push to maintain the public’s positive perceptions of the integrity of the legal profession as described in the rules I’d be tested on tomorrow, via a series of multiple-choice questions some deemed an exercise in choosing the best of four wrong answers.

Given the frequency of headlines about White House lawyers indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, or judges convicted of extortion, or lawyers and judges committing acts of moral turpitude against women and children, it might be less about maintaining a positive image than obtaining one.

Here’s the thing. I wrote that passage in late 2017. How many White House lawyers have we seen engaging in appalling ethical misbehavior since? How many Supreme Court justices? Both as nominees, and once they make it on the bench through machinations of senators and others (The Federalist Society) that are not only unconstitutional, but are so disgustingly void of ethics, both personal and professional, that it’s about as nauseating as it gets—and injurious to all that we hold sacred.

And another thing. Going back to that part about this multiple-choice test on ethics being viewed as an exercise in choosing the best of four wrong answers. Lately I’ve also been thinking that all of those wrong answer choices must look like creative suggestions for folks like Bill Barr, intent on circumventing the rule of law and rules of the profession any which way they can.

Take Rudy Giuliani (to jail, please). Sure, those in charge finally got around to suspending his law license, but after how much publicized carnage and craziness? And has he actually been officially disbarred yet?

Here’s a former prosecutor that people fell all over themselves to claim as “America’s Mayor” when he engaged in flagrant self-aggrandizement in the wake of the 9/11 attack on NYC. I wasn’t buying his act, because I read a book titled The Prosecutors in the early 90s in law school, and I had this man’s number ever since. The fascism, the arrogance, the sheer nastiness, has always been on display for those paying attention.

This “rules don’t apply to me” crap, especially in prominent lawyers, has always been prevalent. The problem is, so has the legal profession always seemed to turn a blind eye in not holding their own accountable.

Because after everyone takes that insipid multiple-choice test, no one seems to be monitoring their behavior with any actual concern that ethics rules are being followed.

Besides, as Rowan Layne notes, professional ethics is something that really shouldn’t be reduced to multiple choice if anyone expects the subject to be taken seriously by those tasked with making wise and fair legal decisions once engaged in the practice of law.

These days, it’s especially clear that taking this test doesn’t make anyone a better or more ethical lawyer, any more than attending a high-priced, elitist, and revered Ivy League law school.

How many of their graduates are shining examples of the legal profession while serving in Congress, or otherwise splashed across headlines for their maniacal manipulations of law and total lack of professional ethics in representing reprehensible criminals such as the former president?

And you know what’s worse than these degenerates being lawyers or judges who are no different than the criminal thugs they represent or support politically? Some of them are legislators, and some are law professors.

Disbar Barr has a nice ring to it. If only money and power and influence didn’t bar accountability. Especially in the legal profession.



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