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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Gonzales' Counsel Was Unethical -- And That Does Matter

posted by Mike at 1/27/2005 11:22:00 AM

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I respectfully disagree with Mu's statement regarding ignoring lawyers' morality and Gonzales' fitness for Attorney General. I'm a legal assistant and have worked for over seven years now amidst lawyers. While I don't know as much about the legal field as lawyers, I do understand more about the industry than an average individual, just by the nature of working in and among them for seven years.

To state, as Mu does, that every lawyer has behaved immorally at some point in their career is really an insult to all lawyers in America, a lot of which have made a point of striving for honesty and morality. Yes, it's an easy insult to make, since many lawyers have done many crooked things for many years, and as a result they are not exactly beloved by our country or its populace. I'm not defending all of them, believe you me. Even most lawyers wouldn't try to defend all of their brethren — like any profession that affords significant power to its practitioners, it's a profession that has fairly significant problems with abuse of said power.

But many lawyers have done may wonderful things for many years, as well. The ACLU often brings suits I feel are nonsense, but they've also stomped into court fighting tooth and nail to curb the worst of the PATRIOT Act's and Ashcroft'ss excesses, and that's why I annually pry a little bit out of my budget to donate to them. Trial lawyers (or, as Lakoff might put it, "public protection lawyers") may often bring nuisance lawsuits, but how often are others fighting to curb corporate excesses and protect people's health and safety?

And, on a personal note, I worked for an attorney for five and a half years, and when she told me she was going to try to become a judge, I worked my tail off trying to get her elected (including standing outside of a polling place for 13 hours on a miserable Chicago winter day), because she had demonstrated such overwhelming honesty and intelligence during my time working for her that I knew she'd do a lot of good on the bench. And she won. A moment where the system actually worked.

With all due respect to Mu (whose writings here I often enjoy), like many generalizations, his generalization about the actions of lawyers falls significantly short of truth, and as such, can't effectively be used to defend Gonzales' prior history of unethical counsel to Dubya. There are ethical codes governing lawyers' conducts. There is a sense of morality governing lawyers' conduct. They are not exempt from ethics and morality; they are not bound to only serve their client's wishes without considering the morality and ethics (not to mention legality) of said wishes. In some states, legal ethics are even bound into law, and even when not, ethics violations always carry severe consequences for attorneys. Browse a bit through the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission's website sometime.

Mu reminds us that Gonzales is not nominated for the Supreme Court, but will be a Cabinet secretary. I think he fails to understand the significance of the Attorney General being the top law enforcement officer in the country. A Cabinet secretary post is not a insignificant advisory role — each secretary heads up a department of the government, and Gonzales will head up the Department of Justice. Take a look at what agencies are under the Department of Justice. The scope is immense, and we will be consolidating all of that power under the thumb of a man who has demonstrated a willingness to disregard what is right to do anything for his client. I do not trust that man to suddenly become objective and put his country in front of the man who elevated him to such a position of power.

Do we really want a man who could ethically justify torture, and whose opinion of the Geneva Conventions is that they are "quaint," in charge of our country's prison system?

An attorney just doesn't give his client the advice they want to hear, he (or she) is supposed to give them good counsel of the law. A lawyer is not exempt from morality and ethics. I've seen attorneys base their decisions not only on what is best for their client but on what is morally and legally right.

Gonzales didn't factor that into any of his decisions. As such, I think he's horrifically unfit to be the one to lead our country's law enforcement and efforts towards justice.

Mu and I do agree on one thing, though. If it was a choice between putting in Gonzales or keeping this numbnutz around, I'd have picked Gonzales in a heartbeat. But I think Ashcroft was gonna go either way — and Bush could have picked a far less offensive candidate than the man who's always been his favorite legal toady.