Friday, August 9, 2013

Ithaca Lawyer Un-Ethical Lawyers Need Not Get Too Close to the Clerks

This comes from the New York Lawyer's Code of Professional Responsibility

"Lawyers, as guardians of the law, play a vital role in the preservation of society. The fulfillment of this role requires an understanding by lawyers of their relationship with and function in our legal system. A consequent obligation of lawyers is to maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct."


Well, just when you thought you've seen it all something else happens. Over the course of my 15 years practicing law I have visited hundreds of town, village, city, and county Courts. A large part of that involves talking to court clerks and personnel. Filing motions, getting documents, paying fines, and re-scheduling is the day to day stuff (mostly mundane and boring) but recently one of the smaller Courts I frequent put up a sign that caught my eye.

What does this mean?

I honestly have no idea why they put up this sign or what it means? I am clueless. Attorneys are by law "officers of the Courts."

What is an Officer of the Court? (from the free dictionary)

officer of the court n. any person who has an obligation to promote justice and effective operation of the judicial system, including judges, the attorneys who appear in court, bailiffs, clerks, and other personnel. As officers of the court lawyers have an absolute ethical duty to tell judges the truth, including avoiding dishonesty or evasion about reasons the attorney or his/her client is not appearing, the location of documents and other matters related to conduct of the courts.

Now back to this sign, by attorneys, they mean "criminal defense attorneys" not the prosecutors. I know the powers that be here (they) do not want us in the clerks office. This was and is a friendly Court. The Court where this is now displayed showed no friction between the attorneys and the staff and yet NOW we have this signage.

Keep Out!

It is a first, but maybe something happened, not all the lawyers I know are easy to deal with. Maybe a clerk got scared or put off by something that happened. I am guessing (I don't know) but maybe a paper document was seen that should not have been seen by an attorney. So much for transparency in the legal process.

My only challenge is to the word "ethically." I kinda group three things together:

1. Legality (what is legal) as in what is kosher and ok for all of us to do and say (appropriate behavior)

2. Ethics (acting with honesty and integrity)

3. Professionalism (no off color humor or jokes) This is a court not a bar or amusement park.

I believe they all go together, they are all necessary, and vital to the practice of law. Lawyers should not be told to be ethical by a court, they should be trusted, and if something did happen ostracizing ALL I don't think is the answer. Communicating, correcting, and fixing the underlying issues would be the professional approach here. Creating a huge sign and posting it on a door is not professional IMHO.

Just my two cents, ,,

Lawrence (Larry) Newman
Doctor of Chiropractic
Attorney and Counselor at Law