Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Disturbing Legal Trend

Public officials are increasingly refusing to uphold laws they disagree with, from presidential "signing statements" to refusal to defend laws in open open court that they are politically opposed to. This needs to stop. When you assume an office of public trust you don't have the right to decide which laws you will or will not obey. Nor if you are a lawyer on the public payroll, do you have the right to decide what laws you will defend in court. If I were a tax paying citizen of Illinois I would file an ethics complaint with the state bar association alleging failure to zealously defend the interests of their client.

If your conscience will not allow you to defend a law then you should either not have taken the job, or you should do the honorable thing and resign.


The Archer of the Forest said...

Hah...I had just read that article a few moments ago before I read your blog entry here. I left a comment on MSNBC saying almost the exact same thing!

Visibilium said...

John, you're behind the times. The current legal environment bears little resemblance to the 1950s and earlier when most states' criminal codes contained a handful of basic felonies and a couple dozen misdemeanors. Mens rea always counted, and prosecutors weren't loading the kitchen sink into an indictment just to make sure that something stuck. All sorts of weenie offenses are now felonies with an impact on voting, firearms ownership, and professional standing. I'll never understand why a tax evader can't be my surgeon. Supporters of discretionary enforcement, jury nullification, and at-will secession defend my rights just by opening their mouths.

As to your hypothetical bar complaint, don't get me started on the putrid hired-gun theory to which I was subjected during my law school confinement. Acting according to one's conscience is the sign of a free people. The same society that wants attorneys to act as hired guns told us at Nuremberg that each individual is absolutely morally responsible for his own actions regardless of his position in society.

Anthony said...

Based on some conversations I've had with a former state district attorney, I have to agree with Visibilium. What John decries is actually a movement away from a creeping police state. It's not a real solution, but it's better than nothing.