"If the judges interpret the laws themselves, and suffer none else to interpret, they may easily make, of the laws, [a shredded] shipman's hose!" - King James I of England, around 1616.

“No class of the community ought to be allowed freer scope in the expression or publication of opinions as to the capacity, impartiality or integrity of judges than members of the bar. They have the best opportunities of observing and forming a correct judgment. They are in constant attendance on the courts. Hundreds of those who are called on to vote never enter a court-house, or if they do, it is only at intervals as jurors, witnesses or parties. To say that an attorney can only act or speak on this subject under liability to be called to account and to be deprived of his profession and livelihood by the very judge or judges whom he may consider it his duty to attack and expose, is a position too monstrous to be entertained for a moment under our present system,” Justice Sharwood in Ex Parte Steinman and Hensel, 95 Pa 220, 238-39 (1880).

“This case illustrates to me the serious consequences to the Bar itself of not affording the full protections of the First Amendment to its applicants for admission. For this record shows that [the rejected attorney candidate] has many of the qualities that are needed in the American Bar. It shows not only that [the rejected attorney candidate] has followed a high moral, ethical and patriotic course in all of the activities of his life, but also that he combines these more common virtues with the uncommon virtue of courage to stand by his principles at any cost.

It is such men as these who have most greatly honored the profession of the law. The legal profession will lose much of its nobility and its glory if it is not constantly replenished with lawyers like these. To force the Bar to become a group of thoroughly orthodox, time-serving, government-fearing individuals is to humiliate and degrade it.” In Re Anastaplo, 18 Ill. 2d 182, 163 N.E.2d 429 (1959), cert. granted, 362 U.S. 968 (1960), affirmed over strong dissent, 366 U.S. 82 (1961), Justice Black, Chief Justice Douglas and Justice Brennan, dissenting.

" I do not believe that the practice of law is a "privilege" which empowers Government to deny lawyers their constitutional rights. The mere fact that a lawyer has important responsibilities in society does not require or even permit the State to deprive him of those protections of freedom set out in the Bill of Rights for the precise purpose of insuring the independence of the individual against the Government and those acting for the Government”. Lathrop v Donohue, 367 US 820 (1961), Justice Black, dissenting.

"The legal profession must take great care not to emulate the many occupational groups that have managed to convert licensure from a sharp weapon of public defense into blunt instrument of self-enrichment". Walter Gellhorn, "The Abuse of Occupational Licensing", University of Chicago Law Review, Volume 44 Issue 1, September of 1976.

“Because the law requires that judges no matter how corrupt, who do not act in the clear absence of jurisdiction while performing a judicial act, are immune from suit, former Judge Ciavarella will escape liability for the vast majority of his conduct in this action. This is, to be sure, against the popular will, but it is the very oath which he is alleged to have so indecently, cavalierly, baselessly and willfully violated for personal gain that requires this Court to find him immune from suit”, District Judge A. Richard Caputo in H.T., et al, v. Ciavarella, Jr, et al, Case No. 3:09-cv-00286-ARC in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Document 336, page 18, November 20, 2009. This is about judges who were sentencing kids to juvenile detention for kickbacks.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

To law students - how sound is your investment in legal education?

Whenever one makes a major investment, one should know the pros and the cons before making it.

I am not making any startling revelations by saying that investment in a legal education, especially with a view to practice law, is an investment of a lifetime.

Not only the prospective law student denies himself or herself other opportunities in the workforce for 7 years (4 years of college and 3 years of law school), but legal education is increasingly expensive, while the employment market is increasingly tight.

On top of that, a law license can be revoked based simply on lawyer's criticism of a judge, and most defenses that such criticism is actually a constitutionally protected activity are rebuffed and rejected by the judicial system.

Sometimes there are cases where such criticism cannot be avoided - not if the lawyer wants to remain loyal to his oath of office, to maintain and uphold the Constitutions and the laws of the State he or she is practicing in and of the United States.

To make a motion to recuse in most states exposes the lawyer to the risk of retaliation from the judge.  If the judge retaliates for a motion to recuse, he is virtually untouchable, either by the virtually non-existent judicial discipline, or by a civil lawsuit because of the judicially created concept of absolute judicial immunity, even for malicious and corrupt acts.

Law students are not being told that, simply by doing their jobs and maintaining their oath of office they may set themselves on a path to destroy their careers, reputations and investments of a livelihood - because if a law license is lost, the former lawyer will, most likely, not be employed in any position of trust or be licensed for any other profession.

All that training, all those skills, all those endless hours of study and research, both in law school and in law practice, all the money invested in the legal education and post-graduation training, all those hours that you have taken from yourself and your family to train yourself to be a good lawyer will go down the drain because a lawyer, at one moment, stepped on the toes of a judge, most likely, rightfully criticizing that judge for mistakes, bias and lack of competence and integrity.

Just think about it - it takes well over a hundred thousand dollars to get a legal education.

It takes one corrupt or biased judge who developed a grudge against you - because you were doing your job -  to take away a law license and eliminate all the benefits of that legal education.

You will have no right to appeal when you lose your license.

You, most likely, judging by statistics, will never get that license back.

Imagine yourself with a spouse, young kids to support, a mortgage, car and student loans (including student loans from law school) - thrown out of your profession for criticizing the judge, on behalf of a client.

What will you do knowing that your investment of a lifetime lies in the hands of, possibly, a despicable, immoral and biased judge?

Will you still criticize him or her, as your oath of office may require, in order to uphold the laws and the Constitutions of the state where you are going to practice and of the United States?  Or will you start scraping and bowing - as the majority of the legal profession does - in order to keep feeding your family?

Do you really want to spend your life bowing to dishonorable people on the bench, simply because nobody told you when you were about to spend that money on your legal education that your investment may disappear because of a decision (possibly, incorrect) from one judge who did not like your criticism?

Do you want to spend your lifetime avoiding the so-called sensitive topics in the courtroom, even when your clients' case requires addressing such topics head-on?

Do you want to spend your life catering to people on the bench who came there not because of their skills, but because of their political connections?  In a system where such catering became so rampant and such an accepted practice that continued legal education courses are openly offered to lawyers, to pay money to learn how to cater to specific judges better?

The links in the blog about the CLE seminar teaching about judge's "pet peeves" are now leading to nowhere - possibly, because of my blog and its high readership.   Unfortunately, by removing the content about this seminar from the web, the practice of catering for the "pet peeves" of judges at the cost of preserving your law license is not removed.  As I see it happening every day in the courtroom, this practice thrives and constitutes the way of life for many, if not the majority, of lawyers. 

Of course, some people thrive in the environment where they can bow, scrape, cater and brown-nose to the high-and-mighty of this world.

A law student simply has to be forewarned about the real strings attached that come with his or her investment into the legal education - before he or she makes that investment.  In my view, that is what any law school luring new students must do, and that is what law schools - heavily supported by donations from the legal profession that needs new recruits and free or nearly-free interns to get their costs down - fail to do.  At least, my law school never really made it clear to me that my investment into the legal education may hinge upon my criticism - or lack thereof - of a judge.

I wouldn't call it a sound investment - and I think that law schools must teach law students about what they are actually going to face in the real world of practicing law, including the fact that their livelihood, as well as the livelihood of their families, is completely dependent on arbitrary or retaliatory actions of the judiciary.

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