A great role model to the aspiring lawyer

>> Wednesday, December 12, 2007

As a general rule, I'd rather not blog about law or being a lawyer. If there's an activity I'd like to dominate SotSoGM, it's probably writing. After all, I do law things five days a week. Why do I want to expand that? I'd rather be writing; indeed, this blog is meant to be a writing exercise, to encourage me to do some writing every day.

And I don't necessarily want to blog about politics, either. It's a hell of a tough time to be a liberal--the very thing has become a dirty word in popular circles. It's gone from being an accusation to being an expression of disbelief--I've had people argue with me about my being a liberal in the same tone they might use if I said I was stupid or ugly: as if I was being down on myself to express my devotion to progressive values.

Don't get me wrong: it's not fear of controversy or contradiction. I have no problem arguing my head off. The problem is that it's gotten to the point where it all just sort of hurts. I'll go online to check the news and read some new item--the CIA destroying evidence, let's say--and the mental image I have is of myself wearing a football helmet and shoulder pads, putting my head down, and charging into a cinder block wall. That's how it's hard to be a liberal these days: not that you're despised, but that anything you could possibly say or do has all the effect of pounding your head against a wall day after day after day.

But I'm getting away from the subject of this post, and I don't have much time. The subject of this post is the ridiculousness of the American Bar Association nominating former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as their "Lawyer Of The Year" and the absurd rationale behind it.

I'm not a member of the ABA. When you first become a lawyer, they give you a free membership, and then a cheap membership, and then you can get an expensive membership. At least that's how I recall them doing it. Maybe it's changed. I was a member of the ABA for a few years, because I thought the magazine was alright and maybe I'd use the coupons or hotel discounts, and when I realized I'd have to pay more money and that I never used any of the benefits, that was the end of that. People confuse the ABA with State Bar associations, which are mandatory. The ABA is kind of a national trade association. I remember seeing an episode of Angel a number of years ago where an ordinary lawyer told an evil lawyer he was going to report the evil lawyer to the American Bar Association, and I fell off my couch. Maybe he thought the evil lawyer should get a hotel discount, or that he merited a nasty letter to the editor. I guess it was just that the episode writer had no idea what he was talking about, but that's not nearly as funny.

Now, from my frothing left-winger vantage (a vantage the ABA is often accused of sharing, tho' I'm not sure I buy that, but whatever), Alberto Gonzales was a pretty awful guy who never should have been confirmed by the Senate. Let us suppose that "torture" is a crime. Let us further suppose that Mr. Gonzales, as counsel to the President, sent the President a memorandum insisting that the so-called War On Terror "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners," i.e. that there were ways for the Executive Branch to circumvent laws prohibiting the torture of prisoners.

The question that someone concerned with legal ethics might ask at this point is, "Did Mr. Gonzales advise his client (the President) on how to circumvent the law and commit a crime?" And the reason that this is a vital question is that if the answer is "yes," many (if not all) State Bars would consider that a violation of rules of professional responsibility.

See (and you may know this), every State has a fairly complicated list of things that you can and can't do as a lawyer. (In most states, these rules are modeled after either the ABA's current Model Rules Of Professional Conduct or the ABA's older Model Code Of Professional Responsibility.) And under such rules, a lawyer is permitted to advise a client about the scope of the law, but not to advise the client as to how to break the law. (See, e.g. Model Rule 1.2 of the MRPC.)

If Mr. Gonzales' conduct went beyond counseling the President as to the scope of the law, in other words, then Mr. Gonzales' conduct may have exposed him to disciplinary action (possibly including disbarment in Texas).

So this is the ABA's "Lawyer Of The Year." A man who maybe should have been brought before the Texas Bar. Here's what the ABA said about its choice:
"Think about Time magazine's Person of the Year," [ABA Journal editor and publisher Edward A.] Adams said in an interview. "In years past they've named people like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin. So we're not suggesting by these awards that these are the best lawyers in any sense of the word. We are saying they are the most newsworthy--and perhaps also the best."
Now, see, that's just stupid.

I don't know the history of Stalin making the cover of Time, if that's true, but I know the story of Hitler making the cover: Time magazine publisher Henry Luce was a rabidly right-wing anti-Communist. He liked Adolph Hitler. Hitler was a strong leader who pulled Europe's most important country out of the economic shredder and who jailed the communists. A good German, and plenty of Americans in the 1930s still thought of the Brits as effete, untrustworthy losers who recruited Americans to fight their wars when they weren't oppressing the Founding Fathers or whatever.

So if the ABA wants to say that a man who possibly should have been disbarred and who ultimately resigned from the Justice Department under a dark cloud is a great American Lawyer, power to them. They'll find lots of people agree with them and who beat their chests over the disgrace of us liberals tormenting a great and good man and successfully driving him from a vital leadership role as part of our ongoing plot to sell the nation out to... whoever we're selling out to this week. The terrorists, I guess. We want them to win, right? I've misplaced my memo. But this wishy-washy, "Oh, he's so newsworthy" crap is asinine.

I'm out of steam, and I need something real to eat after too much junk food at the office Christmas Grazing thing, and I'm supposed to meet a friend online for some monster slaying in Neverwinter Nights in half an hour. I'm not sure I really articulated an opinion, sorry. My head keeps swelling inside this helmet, and I'm having a hard time breathing. But point me at that wall, and I'll give it another go....


MWT Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 9:32:00 PM EST  

Hmm... I think your opinion was "Alberto Gonzales as Lawyer of the Year?? OMFG WTFuxxzorz! o.O"

Of course, I might just be assuming things based on the fact that you mention playing NWN, but that was certainly my reaction to the news. ;)

Eric Thursday, December 13, 2007 at 12:04:00 AM EST  

No, that sums it up pretty well.

My mood was improved somewhat from the deaths of many monsters. Some died twice, since the module we were playing appears to have some twitchy respawn scripts. But they were all very bad monsters, and deserved it. Well. That's not quite true: my friend tossed a fireball at a group of bugbears surrounding what I think was a civilian (there wasn't much time to get a good look), and destroyed the peasant to save the peasant.

The appeal of a world in which monsters are obvious and bad, and can be destroyed with mighty magic or a blurred sword, is self-evident, no? Escapism shouldn't be a dirty word, either.

rbird Saturday, December 15, 2007 at 6:33:00 PM EST  

i think the ABA must be full of "special needs" people. that's the only way i can explain it.

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