Democrats & Liberals Archives

Nation of Lawyers

Ever since my younger days I have been told that America is great because it is not a nation of men but a nation of laws, that is, we are not ruled autocratically by men, but democratically by law. Sometimes the concept is stated as “nobody is above the law.” However, after witnessing the Whitehouse-Justice shenanigans with reference to Congress, I think we have a nation not of laws but of lawyers.

Senator Patrick Leahy, head of the Judiciary Committee, asked Sara Taylor, a former political director working in the Whitehouse and reporting to Karl Rove, to testify in reference to the firings of U.S. prosecutors from the Justice Department. Fred Fielding, the Whitehouse lawyer protecting Bush, Rove and other officials, instructed Taylor not to testify because of executive privilege.

But she got her own lawyer, Neil Eggleston, who wrote to the committee:

In our view, it is unfair to Ms. Taylor that this constitutional struggle might be played out with her as the object of an unseemly tug of war.

Translation: We don't care about the Constitution. All we want to do is protect Ms. Taylor.

Eggleston advised Taylor to testify but to not give away anything about Whitehouse doings. He attended the hearings and told her how to answer questions.

The Committee was frustrated and accomplished practically nothing. But this was the purpose of these great lawyers: Fielding and Eggleston.

The same sort of drama unfolded in the House. Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Subcommittee Chairwoman Linda Sánchez subpoenaed Harriet Miers, former Whitehouse lawyer, to testify about the prosecutor firings. Though Miers is a lawyer herself, she hired a lawyer, George T. Manning, who advised her to listen to Fielding and not to Conyers and Sanchez. So she stayed home.

Manning is another good lawyer. He does not care that he is ripping the Constitution apart. His job is to keep his client out of trouble.

Unfortunately, the practice of law has elevated the status of lawyers and not the status of law. A lawyer's job is not to seek justice but to win a case or protect a client. We have here a paradox: the practice of law degrades the law and uplifts lawyers. We are a nation ruled by lawyers.

Posted by Paul Siegel at July 12, 2007 5:10 PM
Comments
Comment #226086

Where is that eagle from that triangular island?

from
Ethics in Service (1914)
by William H. Taft:

“Lawyers, as the instruments through which the subtleties and iniquities of the Common Law were enforced, were highly unpopular as a class in England during the period of Cromwell and Milton.”
Milton wrote:
“Most men are allured to the trade of law, grounding their purposes not on the prudent and heavenly contemplation of justice and equity, which was never taught them, but on the promising and pleasing thoughts of litigious terms, fat contentions and flowing fees.”
As examples of a lawyer’s reputation in London in the seventeenth century, Mr. Warren cites the titles of the following tracts printed at that time: “The Downfall of Unjust Lawyers”; “Doomsday Drawing Near with Thunder and Lightning for Lawyers”; “A Rod for Lawyers who are Hereby declared Robbers and Deceivers of the Nation”; “Essay where is Described the Lawyers, Smugglers and Officers Frauds.”

I note these facts as I progress to indicate and reinforce my original statement that the present time is not the only time in the history of civilization when lawyers have received the condemnation of their fellow subjects or fellow citizens.

100 years later and 350 years later, and they are still the same. It sounded yesterday like we were back in Watergate, but Taylor was more polite than arrogant.

Posted by: ohrealy at July 12, 2007 5:28 PM
Comment #226088

“We are a nation ruled by lawyers”

And it took you until the year 2007 to figure this out?
Rapists, pedo’s and OJ’s walk free everyday because winning the case is more important than justice.

Good post Paul. I like the M. Night Shyamalan style.
Partisan Dem talk all the way up to the last paragraph, then you switch to sounding like somebody from the right side of the isle.
Way to keep people on their toes.

Posted by: kctim at July 12, 2007 5:33 PM
Comment #226136

No matter what side of this debate we’re on, all of us could say a lot about the Constitutional battle being played out here between this congressional committee and the White House. There are a lot of different arguments to be had there.

But what fascinates me, Paul, is that you’re attacking Taylor’s own personal lawyer (HER lawyer, not the White House’s) for supposedly “caring more about his client than the Constitution.”

Let me ask you this. If you hire a lawyer (for any reason—it doesn’t matter what), do you expect him or her to fight for YOUR side on the legal question under dispute, or do you expect him or her to assume a posture of academic impartiality and point out to the judge, the jury, and the opposing attorneys all the potential weaknesses of your case according to various readings of the US Constitution?

Is this what Democrats actually believe now, or is this just a gassy-belch of political partisanship?
Honestly. Please answer the question.

Should public defenders in a capital case stand before a judge and start listing all the reasons they think their clients should be executed on the basis of possible readings of the Constitution, or should they friggin DEFEND their clients using all the legal means at their disposal as they’ve been hired to do?

The absurd lengths that Democrats are willing to go to in order to create a whole new set of rules, laws, and norms in their fanatical attacks on the opposition, the double-standards and hypocrisy on display here, is absolutely breath-taking.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at July 12, 2007 10:56 PM
Comment #226146

Paul Siegel- I would like to know why Conyers did
not already have in hand a contempt of Congress
Allowed by The Inherent Contempt Powers Act.
ready for her.

Posted by: -DAVID- at July 13, 2007 1:05 AM
Comment #226149

David, Conyers likes to pretend that he represents both Congress and the Judicial branch of the federal government, but he is actually merely the chairman of one single Congressional committee that is on a piddly little partisan witch-hunt and has absolutely zero authority to demand or enforce any of the BS he is asking for. The administration has properly called his bluff and there’s nothing he can actually do about it but whine. But of course, Conyer’s babyish whining will still sound like a chorus of angels to liberal Democrats and the media, but that only makes it more, not less pathetic.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at July 13, 2007 1:31 AM
Comment #226156

Miss Myers refused a subpoena from Conyer,s comity,
an most likely be charged with contempt of Congress by a U.S. Attorney, authorized by the
Inherent Contempt Powers, listed in the congressional Oversight manual. An individual can be
brought before Congress or the Senate by the
Sargent-At-Arms Tried at the Bar of the body, an can
be imprisoned until the required material is given
to the Congress or the Senate, in the event you
would like more information on the subject, you
can find it under Congressional Research.

Posted by: -DAVID- at July 13, 2007 3:27 AM
Comment #226168

Couold not agree more with your conclusions. The problem is that lawyers are, by law, required to put up the best defense possible. I’m not sure i want to see that change, but we need judges that can excercise judgement in the spirit and intent of law. Not the exact words and the possible meanings that can be constructed. we need judges that are comfortable contradicting poor precidents.
And we need the law in “MAN WHO WOULD BE KING” In which the King punished a man for using a good law to a bad purpose.

Posted by: John in Texas at July 13, 2007 9:22 AM
Comment #226170

Paul,

It is a lawyer’s job to serve the interests of his or her client, not of society at large or of the Congress. Of course, the client can choose to disregard legal advice. Congress can compel testimony by granting immunity.

Our legal system is designed to be adversial. There’s not much point in blaming the lawyers for that. I get frustrated too when justice does not seem to be served, but I also know that if I were in the hotseat, I’d want a lawyer willing and capable of vigorously protecting my interests.

This is not a defense of the Bush administration, which sucks on so many levels. It’s a defense of lawyers doing their jobs in trying to defend the interests of their clients.

Posted by: Gerrold at July 13, 2007 9:48 AM
Comment #226176

I actually (deep cleansing breath, you can do this) agree with LO on this one, to a point. Defense lawyers, like so many other slimy unpleasant things in this world, are an unfortunate necessity. Where I disagree you LO (which I must, I am compelled) is in how you turn this into something partisan. Paul’s point would be nearly as valid if we were talking about, say, OJ, or Paris Hilton nearly getting out of jail time. He is merely using a liberal political point of view because, umm, this IS the liberal side of a political blog after all. :-)

Posted by: leatherankh at July 13, 2007 10:41 AM
Comment #226195

yeh I gotta say I never thought it was a lawyer’s job to seek justice so much as to defend a client and point the Justice system in a direction that might change the outlook on those laws. Seeking Justice is what the Judge does when he commits to a punishment. At this point the jury is still out on Justice on this case… the Justice probably won’t come because bushco doesn’t want us to know what happened…

Posted by: Squire at July 13, 2007 12:57 PM
Comment #226226

LO & Gerrold:

This was not a partisan attack. I merely wanted people to think about our system of justice. Is it supposed to be adversarial? Wouldn’t you rather have a system where lawyers seek justice rather than protecting their clients?

Posted by: Paul Siegel at July 13, 2007 4:30 PM
Comment #226239

Paul, I read it as a partisan attack because you called the issue at stake “the Whitehouse-Justice shenanigans.” Since BOTH the White House and the Justice Dept are part of the administration, a name that didn’t constitute a partisan attack on one side would be “the White House-Congress shenanigans.”

We have police and prosecutors whose job it is to get convictions, lawyers to represent the accused, and judges and juries to weigh the evidence and decide the Constitutional questions and matters of guilt or innocence. That’s how we get to the bottom of what “justice” is in the first place. The system doesn’t always work perfectly, but it’s far better than what you propose.

What you’re suggesting is that we completely stack the decks against the accused and have the entire legal system working against them. I just have a hard time believing that this is what you actually want—that is, unless a Republican is in the docket.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at July 13, 2007 6:19 PM
Comment #226285

Paul Siegel- I believe the President and the
Presidency must be constrained at all costs.
I also think Sanctions must be imposed for the
illegal use of unauthorized wire taps, the kidnappings
of people on foreign soil, confining prisoners with
out due process, operating secret prisons in foreign
Countries for the purpose’s of torture an other
purposes. Secrete Contracts given for the Military
Complex. The most Egregious {SAIC Gorp.} Jim Steel & Don Bartlet reporters- If you can find the
information they have written on this Corp. You
will be shocked to see who has an who does work
for them, along with the Billions Mr. Bush an
our Gov. have lost on bad deals. Try an find out
how many of our Politicians are involved, Makes
Abramoff look innocent.

Posted by: -DAVID- at July 14, 2007 6:06 AM
Comment #226286

Paul Siegel- I have to wounder why it is that a few
folks here always try an defend known criminals.
I guess, each to their own.

Posted by: -DAVID- at July 14, 2007 6:27 AM
Comment #226365

The gist of this article seems to me to attack the Earth for revolving away from the Sun and causing the loathesome night.

How can one hope to have a nation of law, not persons, without large cadres of lawyers, who are students of the law, and whose services are paid for abundantly by those seeking justice and fairness by their perspective? It is like criticizing a leopard for its spots. That intrinsic to each other by definition. A nation of law requires large numbers of lawyers.

Wasn’t much need for lawyers in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. That’s the flip side.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 14, 2007 9:37 PM
Comment #226394

David R. Remer- These folks probably are the first to yell for a lawyer at the first sight of problems.
We appear to have become a more lawless County
in the last 20 years, an I find placing the blame or
faults a difficult task. Gives me a Brain Freeze.(^.-.^)

Posted by: -DAVID- at July 15, 2007 4:13 AM
Comment #226566

I hate to say this for all his Democrat bashing, but if you read Loyal oppositions original statement about a lawyer’s duty to represent his/her client and think about it in terms of a less “high profile case”, he’s right. David and Paul you really should be attacking the ethic-less lawyer that played a part in committing the high crime of covering up the reason/rational that was used to have the attorneys fired, not the one doing his job. Let me say this another way, to my fellow liberals, let’s not lose focus here. I think we’ll find that this case will, in the end, make our country and system of law stronger. We need to stop this us against the system mentality, it’s simply a lethargic additude. We can, will, and should use all facets of the system, from law to media, to weed these criminals out. Just as it is the presidents right to give an order to his lawyer to hold his tongue on issues that could incriminate him, it is also the right of congress to put this person in contempt. This wouldn’t be a bad idea, it puts added pressure on the job of any legal consultant to the president. Which, is the general long-term idea, that people seeking such positions make better choices in the future, so they don’t end up in a “tug of war,” that could end their career.

So, keep the pressure on your reps. Let them know that going after these people is worthwhile, and will keep them in office. Don’t get frustrated, taking down a society of criminals takes time, but can be done.

Posted by: James at July 16, 2007 4:27 PM
Comment #226644

Reducing crime in society BEGINS with leadership which sets a law abiding example. Something America has lost many times under differing administrations and Congress’ over the last several decades.

Watergate, the Savings and Loan bailout, the Chrysler bail out, the endless stream of Congressional criminal behavior from child molestation to billions in misappropriated tax dollars, to Signing Statements by multiple Presidents in direct Violation of the spirit and intent of the U.S. Constitution, and many, many more examples, have created a general perception that America’s leaders are corrupt, even our clergy are corrupt, so, why shouldn’t Americans consider the law something to be gotten around when one can reasonably expect to get away with it?

There is a about a 1.5 trillion dollar underground economy which is never taxed, never overseen, and includes as participants otherwise fine upstanding middle class persons and business owners, who cheat on their taxes in a myriad of ways from cash only basis transactions which aren’t reported to illegal immigrant labor which is never expensed and with wages at or below legal minimums.

At any given moment, about 35 to 40% of the drivers on our highways are violating laws. And of all those accidents, the insurance companies settling claims for their at fault insured’s liability are cheating the claimants of what is their due by the very principles which establish our insurance companies. And they get away with it because 95 or more percent of those being cheated won’t or can’t hire an attorney to represent them, which pays handsome dividends to the insurance company even after deducting the losses in the courts by those 5 or less percent who take them to court and win fairness and justice for themselves by the insurance industry’s own standards and precepts.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 17, 2007 2:55 AM
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