OPINION RELEASE: * * Less Respect For The Profession Than When Starting Law School * *
- Rick Stanley
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OPINION RELEASE: * * Less Respect For The Profession Than When Starting Law School * *
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, December 29, 2005 5:48 PM
Subject: * * Less Respect For The Profession Than When Starting Law School * *
J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California December 29, 2005
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Less Respect For The Profession Than When Starting Law School
By Stacy Ryan, Recent Law School Graduate
Nebraska JAILer, sar8297@...
The public is tired of a runaway legal system accountable to
only themselves. Although its members have recognized
the problem for years and announced a call for reform,
the system does not change. As a result, the public lost respect
for the legal profession and has begun to demand change.
There is corruption in every profession but lawyers and judges
are in the position to do the most damage not only to the public,
but also to our justice system. If the legal system wants
the respect it once deserved it will be accountable,...
-- Stacy Ryan
Barbie & Ron,
I am proud to say I am a recent law school graduate. I am sorry to say I have
less respect for the profession than I did when I started my law school career.
So, why did I spend 3 years and thousands of dollars to attend law school?
Because after years of messy, expensive, unethical litigation with my ex-husband
(by the way he's a judge in my city) I was sure this was not the way the system
was supposed to work. I was sure that I could somehow expose the unethical
conduct of both my ex and his lawyers and perhaps help others before they were
caught in the "litigation vortex".
In telling my story to legal types, most would look at me skeptically and say
nothing. I found there is a code of silence with lawyers, they will not
criticize one another, no matter how egregious their peer's conduct might be.
Before I spent class time in my law school's legal clinic, the administration
found I was active in judicial accountability and I was cornered by two law
professors who actually demanded that I disengage myself from any criticism of
the judiciary. Two members of the bar instructed me that I was not "allowed" to
say anything bad about a judge! They wholeheartedly agreed with me that the
courthouse was a "good ol boys" club but as a law student soon to be lawyer I
could not speak my mind. That semester they kept me out of the courthouse
because they were convinced they would lose cases because of me.
For my last paper, I chose to research the lawyer disciplinary process. I would
have researched the judicial disciplinary process but not much information is
available. Lawyers and only lawyers become judges so I believe this is relevant
J.A.I.L will find the research interesting yet nothing new. Distrust of the
legal system is also nothing new to the American Bar Association. Despite the
ABA's efforts to reform the profession, its members are still not listening.
This is interestingly but not surprisingly illustrated by the continual
criticism of the South Dakota effort by various bar members.
Some information from my law school paper:
In 1970, an ABA committee reviewed the nation's attorney discipline system. The
committee found a "scandalous situation" requiring "immediate attention. Led by
retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark, the Clark committee found
deliberate efforts to discourage any public dissemination of disciplinary
activities. Fueled by the public's dissatisfaction with the bar and the courts,
the Clark Report stated, "With few exceptions, the prevailing attitude of
lawyers toward disciplinary enforcement ranges from apathy to outright
hostility. Disciplinary action is practically nonexistent in many jurisdictions;
practices and procedures are antiquated; many disciplinary agencies have little
power to take effective steps against malefactors."
In 1992, an ABA panel led by New York University Dean Robert McKay, reported
that the public has a "growing mistrust" of the lawyer disciplinary process. The
McKay Commission concluded that the practice of allowing bar officials to
control state disciplinary systems was perceived as a gross conflict of
interest. The commission criticized attorney discipline as "too slow, too
secret, too soft and too self-regulated."
In August 1996, the Conference of Chief Justices passed a resolution for a
National Study and Action Plan Regarding Lawyer Conduct and Professionalism. In
that resolution, it was noted that a significant decline in professionalism
existed in the bar. The public's confidence showed a corresponding decline. From
the conference report: "There is the perception and frequently the reality that
some members of the bar do not consistently adhere to principles of
professionalism and thereby sometimes impede the effective administration of
justice." The Conference focused on an effort to involve the state supreme
courts in raising public opinion of the profession. The court of highest
jurisdiction in each state was considered to have the ultimate responsibility
for regulation of the legal profession.
In 1999, the National Action Plan on Lawyer Conduct and Professionalism was
adopted by the Conference of Chief Justices. The plan included recommendations
on how lawyer complaints should be handled. Some jurisdictions dismissed up to
ninety percent of all complaints because supposedly the conduct alleged did not
violate the rules of professional conduct. The commission gathered information
about the dismissed complaints and found that many of them in fact did state
legitimate grounds. In their recommendations, the commission claimed that the
disciplinary system disregarded tens of thousands of complaints annually.
According to the American Bar Association, in 2002, 121,000 complaints were
filed against 1.2 million lawyers. Only 3.5 percent led to formal disciplinary
action and just one percent resulted in disbarment. Of these 121,000 complaints,
96.5 percent resulted in no discipline or informal punishments in the form of
In 2002, HALT, An Organization of Americans for Legal Reform, produced the
Lawyer Discipline Report Card to assess whether states had taken any action to
improve their lawyer discipline system. HALT is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public
interest group dedicated to reform projects that challenge the legal system to
improve access to the courts and reduce costs at both the state and federal
levels. (see www.HALT.org)
In just one area of their report, HALT criticized state "gag rules". Alaska,
Arkansas, Georgia, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, South Dakota and
Washington prohibited complainants from telling anyone about their lawyer
complaint before complaints become "public". (note that most lawyer complaints
never become public) The complainant who talks could be held in contempt, fined
or even imprisoned! A few of these states have struck down their gag rules,
finding that the rule poses an unconstitutional restraint on free speech,
already noted by the Chief Justices in 1999.
Speaking from experience, I was instructed that my complaint against a judge
"remained confidential under Nebraska law". Despite my best efforts I could not
get the highest court to explain to me just what that directive meant. I found
later that my state indeed has a "gag rule."
The following incident was reported in my city and illustrates just why the
public has lost confidence in the justice system.
In March 2005, an Omaha Douglas County District Judge reviewed the file of a
26-year-old Omaha man whose third drunken-driving infraction put a motorcyclist
in critical condition. The Judge declared that probation was not appropriate.
The accused's wife began crying, the man begged the judge not to send him to
prison. The judge changed his mind. The accused's attorney (who by the way, was
a buddy of the judge) mentioned that the accused's dad is a lawyer. "I know his
father," the judge said. "That's another problem. By that I mean it just makes
this more difficult."
In an appeal attempt, this judge's decision was affirmed by the higher court.
The public is tired of a runaway legal system accountable to only themselves.
Although its members have recognized the problem for years and announced a call
for reform, the system does not change. As a result, the public lost respect for
the legal profession and has begun to demand change.
Despite the poor press, lawyers exceed one million in the United States. There
are surely ethical lawyers in practice but they fail to report or criticize one
of their own. The result is the good suffer the poor conduct of the bad. In my
research, I also found that the public often fails to employ a lawyer because of
distrust of the profession.
There is corruption in every profession but lawyers and judges are in the
position to do the most damage not only to the public but also to our justice
system. If the legal system wants the respect it once deserved it will be
accountable, invite public opinion and involvement, openly emphasize and
demonstrate ethical conduct and properly punish the unethical. I would then be
proud to be a part of a profession that demonstrates integrity and respect for
our nation's legal system.
It is time bar members start listening and follow the directives of their own
Here's to change in 2006!
Our thanks to Stacy for this personal testimony and research on this very
important topic. She even commented "Distrust of the legal system is also
nothing new to the American Bar Association. Despite the ABA's efforts to
reform the profession, its members are still not listening. This is
interestingly but not surprisingly illustrated by the continual criticism of the
South Dakota effort by various bar members."
Yet, we recently had an admonition from another JAILer, an attorney, who warned
Ron that he deserves to lose this cause because he dared to ask rhetorically of
the 250 members of the South Dakota Bar Association:
"Do the People of South Dakota actually believe these lawyers have decided to do
this out of the kindness of their hearts?" --referring to the free legal
services SD lawyers say they will be offering to the poor. Many of our readers
have told us of the "free legal services" they were offered, and as the saying
goes, "There is free cheese in every mouse trap."
See JNJ 12/26/05 "South Dakota State Bar Panics"
It is no secret that besides the judiciary itself, the Bar Association
nationally is the natural enemy of J.A.I.L., as is its closely associated law
enforcement industry. It is the Bar Association that hosts and trains
(brainwashes) the legal fraternity consisting of judges and lawyers. It is the
Bar Association that has made the legal system what it is today and which the
People seek to alter and reform through J.A.I.L. Ron's disdain for the legal
profession shouldn't be a surprise to anyone-- and it is the profession to which
Ron's above question is directed. Ron has numerous attorney-friends, and so he
recognizes not all lawyers are corrupt. However, the system prevents them from
having any impact on resolving the corruption. As Stacy reports,
"There are surely ethical lawyers in practice but they fail to report or
criticize one of their own. The result is the good suffer the poor conduct of
the bad." She says that there is a "code of silence" with lawyers.
Ron recognizes J.A.I.L.'s enemy when he sees it, and the South Dakota State Bar
has no effective disguise. "Prejudging" the motivations of the members of the
Bar is, in fact, not an issue. Their track record has long been shown for many
years. The evidence has already been established and they routinely depend on
their brethren, the judges, to cover up for them (and this includes law
enforcement corruption). Ron has experienced this phenomenon himself throughout
his 18 years of legal battle. He has been fighting a closed club all those
years, and realized that law doesn't matter. Of course they're going to
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