Some of the protesting attorneys were no better than Romney or the legislators at forgetting their poor clients caught in the crossfire this week. Indigent defendants appeared in courtrooms across the state without benefit of legal representation. Some waived their rights under questionable circumstances. One attorney called another who decided to help out a “scab.” It was the right cause but an unfortunate tactic.
“(a) A lawyer having knowledge that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the Bar Counsel’s office of the Board of Bar Overseers.”
RULE 8.4 MISCONDUCT
It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:
(a) violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another;
(b) commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects;
(c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation;
(d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice;
(h) engage in any other conduct that adversely reflects on his or her fitness to practice law.
Without a doubt, Rule 8.4(d) has been violated, by intentional conduct highly prejudicial to the judicial process — and not just in one case, but across the entire system. If Bar Counsel winks at this, Massachusetts can expect to be held up periodically by their criminal defense counsel. On the other hand, disciplinary action will demonstrate that lawyers are not above the law — even when they are fighting (at least partially) for the rights of others. Public denunciation of the tactics will prove that the Office of Bar Counsel is indeed working, in the words of its Mission Statement, “to protect the public from unethical conduct by lawyers and to preserve and enhance the integrity and high standards of the bar.”
When absolution comes too cheaply for the Watchdog’s friends, who’s going to protect the sheep from the wolves?
- Update (8/21/03): According to the Taunton Daily Gazette, lawyers were beginning to accept new assigned cases at the local district court, but the attorneys are already saying “they may have to strike again next spring“, when the State is expected to run out of appropriated funds for their services. (8-21-03, by Gazette staff writer Scott Dolan). It’s always easier to use coercive tactics the second time — especially if they were successful. Even without being verbalized, the threat of a repeat hangs over the head of the target. Without firm disciplinary action against them for their group refusal to take new cases, the bar advocates of Massachusetts will become chronic bullies.
- Update (Aug 5, 2004): My worse fears have come true. As I said today in a short commentary: Sadly, Bar advocates (assigned counsel) in Massachusetts are continuing their unlawful and unethical collective boycott. Click here to see ethicalEsq’s letter to the editor.
District Court Chief Justice Lynda Connolly told the Boston Herald, “It is disturbing to me that the attorneys would put their personal interests in terms of compensation ahead of the interests of their clients.”