There's something terrible going on in our government, and the particular problem I speak of is centered in the U.S. Justice Department. Good lawyers who are doing their best (and have done their best) to see that the laws of our nation are faithfully executed have been subject to intimidation and coercion. They have been belittled, slandered and generally treated with disdain. Some of these lawyers have been forced to choose between their oath and their careers. And now we know that some sacrificed their careers rather than violate that oath. Some of these lawyers are speaking out now. We're all familiar with the Attorneygate Eight. But others are speaking out now too, lawyers like Sharon Eubanks. Ms. Eubanks has firsthand knowledge of the Bush administration's political interference in the federal government suit against the tobacco companies. Joseph D. Rich, a Justice Dept. attorney until 2005, had an op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times that asserts that the politicization of the Justice Dept. has been pervasive under this administration, and that our system of justice has been traduced.
Look, I've got to concede that many of the people who have so disrespected these lawyers (and have thereby shown disrespect for the very practice of law) are themselves lawyers. Gonzalez is a disgrace. Kyle Sampson is obviously a very misguided young man. Harriet Miers is a pathetic striver who has readily exchanged her professional dignity for the approbation of an ignorant and shameful president. My profession is an honorable one, but we have always had our share of miscreants and opportunists.
David Iglesias makes me proud to be a lawyer. Carol Lam makes me proud to be a lawyer. So do Cummins and Chiara and McKay and the rest of the Attorneygate Eight. So do Sharon Eubanks and Joseph Rich. I think Patrick Fitzgerald is a great prosecutor and a great lawyer, but he was doing his job when he prosecuted Libby. The lawyers I've just cited did more than do their job. Some of them - perhaps all of them - honored their oath and their profession when they wouldn't bend to the will of political hacks like Gonzalez and Rove.
My profession has to speak out on this subject and speak clearly. We need to say something as a profession. The ABA and the state bar associations need to express solidarity with these people. David Iglesias is getting swift-boated in New Mexico. Each of these lawyers has already suffered aspersions on their competence by Bush's thugs.
I still remember part of the speech that was given to me when I was sworn in to become a member of the Oklahoma Bar. The keynote speaker, an attorney from Tulsa, told us that if we were ethical lawyers, we would not make as much money or have as much power. "But," he said, "I hope that you stay true to the ideals of your new profession."
I have written before on the Four Corrupting Influences. In Washington, at the center of power, all of these temptations are there in spades. The more money and power that is at stake, the greater the risk that someone will succumb to the Sirens.
Having said that, lawyers are, at least in theory, called to a higher service. Many people don't know that we are required to go through an FBI background check as part of our law school education.
A lawyer's highest duty is to the Truth. "Find the Truth. Do Justice." A lawyer has an ethical obligation of "Candor Toward The Tribunal." The lawyer who was planning on taking the Fifth Amendment in her testimony before Congress may just find herself at the wrong end of a Professional Responsibility hearing.
Thomas C's sentiment that "we have always had our share of miscreants and opportunists" is certainly true. But it sure seems like we have had more of it lately. What we need in Washington is more lawyers that can "stay true to the ideals of their profession."