Lawyers are easy targets to blame for the world's ills. Praise is a rare commodity in this profession.
Unhappy litigants, victims, witnesses and juries are a plenty. And now judges, too? Judges make difficult rulings every day. We expect them to. We want them to.
But judges, more than anyone else, should stick to the facts. Judges are umpires in the legal world and their credibility turns on their neutrality. Balls and strikes, please. Nothing more.
The recent controversy over one judges's remarks about one group of lawyers has caused a lot of angst with many of my colleagues. Yes, prosecutors are my colleagues, too. All lawyers must adhere to the Rules of Professional Responsibility no matter what type of law they practice.
When lawyers are criticized for not adhering to those rules, it strikes a tender professional nerve. Solicitors are no different. Especially when the accusation is broadly termed and castigates all in a certain group.
Personal experience tells me that most solicitors, most of the time, strive to adhere to the rules.
It is true that prosecutors have special rules that apply only to them. After all, they are our "ministers of justice," held to a higher standard and obligated to be fair and just to all citizens - even the accused. A heavy responsibility indeed. From time to time, some have crossed the line. Ask anyone who follows Duke lacrosse. And there are other examples more recent and closer to home.
Misconduct by prosecutors, just as by any other attorney, should be condemned and vigorously prosecuted. Corrupt or unethical prosecutors discredit our criminal justice system and erode public confidence. So then, it is particularly important to choose accusatory words carefully. To paint all prosecutors with a broad brush discredits the vast majority of those who approach their special duties with honesty and integrity.
The cornerstone of our system of justice is the community's trust that attorneys follow the rules and judges decide disputes fairly and impartially, free from bias or prejudice.
Speculation about unethical prosecutors or for that matter any group of attorneys, particularly by the court, is prejudicial to the justice we all seek.
Andrew J. Savage III
Attorney at Law
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