When an airline’s pilots suffer from seizures, its flight attendants are sociopaths, its mechanics are drunks, and its flights are as likely to end in a fireball as in a smooth landing, conscientious airline employees have a duty to warn the public.
I just got back from the State Bar’s Advanced Criminal Law Course in San Antonio, at which I spoke about jury selection. As well as speaking, I watched all of the other presentations. One speaker advised that we lawyers shouldn’t say things that diminished public confidence in the criminal justice (hyphen deliberately omitted) system.
If the truth is that the criminal justice system is broken, that lawyers and judges are incompetent or corrupt, lawyers have an ethical obligation not to cover that up. (Yes, Scott, we’ve plowed this ground before. Indulge me.)
Recently, an out-of-town lawyer commented, in an email distributed to about forty criminal-defense lawyers, that Judge Ruben Guerrero is “a great judge.” He had met Guerrero at a seminar.
The only sense in which Ruben Guerrero is a great judge is the sense that is untethered from the restrictions of semantics. I set the record straight in response, giving my candid review of Judge Guerrero: worst judge in the courthouse. Ignorant and not very bright. Seeks advice and counsel from State rather than from both parties.
(This was nothing I hadn’t told Judge Guerrero when he called me asking why I had said not-so-nice things about him on the Internet. But Judge Guerrero is in the hide-your-own-Easter-eggs stage of his life, so that even though I’ve spent days in trial before him, every time Judge Guerrero and I meet is the first time.)
I used blunt language, as befits communication among criminal-defense lawyers.
One well-tanned silver-haired gentleman of the defense bar responded: “Respectfully, I disagree with the content and presentation of your Judge Guerrero opinion.”
Comfortable lawyers are not comfortable with the truth. This gentleman likes to get along with judges. He’s made a career of it. He pitches clients on his relationship with the bench. His clients buy it, and they’re welcome to him (my question to them, though, is this: when it comes time to choose between a) maintaining his relationship with the judge, and b) fighting for you, which do you suppose he will choose?).
I don’t mean to convey the impression that I’m at war with the judiciary. Even when they don’t call the balls and strikes the way I think they should, I get along with the judges—most of them, frankly—who do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. I’ve got little use for those who don’t, and even though occasionally I have a client who needs a favor from a judge I’m not going to live on my knees to please those such as Ruben Guerrero who have no business being on the bench, but who might do the right thing if I laugh at their clowning or give to their campaigns.
The truth is the truth. The criminal justice system is filled to the brim with cupidity and stupidity.
Someone has to tell the truth.