Law Ruler April 2024
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Curmudgeon's Perspective

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

By Otto Sorts

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

It’s been a while since I’ve posted in this column. But the release of the new Jurassic World movie reminded me that extinction may not always be permanent, so I decided to opine once again.

As in earlier movies in the series, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” portrays attorneys in a bad light. Maybe that doesn’t bother you, but it bothers me. While there is some truth in that representation, I don’t think we do enough to try to rectify it.

The Good Guys Get Little Play

The government is full of attorneys who are clearly working the edges of the law, if not blatantly ignoring it. On the other hand, I know plenty who are ethical and honest, and who make significant contributions to society. However, these lawyers get little play in the media or public eye, and their positive actions are overshadowed by the nasty, marginally legal behaviors of other attorneys.

A court-appointed attorney once complained to me that he was worried about getting a fair trial in his small town for a client accused of murdering a preacher. He had to prove this “preacher” was dealing drugs, but was concerned about keeping his client off the stand since he had six tattoos visible when fully dressed. Of course, it didn’t help that there was a bloody footprint of the defendant’s shoe at the crime scene — on the victim’s face. Distasteful? Nonetheless, this attorney provided a necessary function for the working of our system of law and should be lauded.

I know of others who provide pro bono representation to underserved communities, including those lawyers from across the country flocking to Texas to represent immigrant parents and children separated by the current administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. The president maligns judges and the courts, but outside of bar association rubber-chicken awards dinners, none seem to be publicly honoring the lawyers defending our system of justice.

It seems to me that all the public sees is a bunch of rogue attorneys — those who want to ignore or falsely represent the law and its systems. When the public thinks of attorneys, it is these bad actors that they envision, not the majority, who are the ethical, law-abiding ones we all know. As a result, the age-old myth of all lawyers being bad is perpetuated.

Silence and Acquiescence Are Complicity

I’m concerned that individual attorneys and the bar don’t do enough to publicize the best of our profession — or enough to publicly censure the bad apples. Somehow we need to see the good attorneys honored and the bad ones called out publicly. Scandal after scandal has supported the narrative that all lawyers are dishonest, and nobody says a thing. What the general public hears from the profession about that kind of corruption is only silence.

In a scene in that Jurassic World movie, an escaped dinosaur stands on the edge of a chasm across from a lion and lets out a massive roar. The lion faces across and answers with his own roar, unwilling to concede the ground.

I think maybe it’s time we became lions.


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Otto Sorts Otto Sorts

Otto Sorts has been reading law since before Martindale met Hubbell. Of Counsel at a large corporate firm that prefers to remain anonymous, Otto is a respected attorney and champion of the grand tradition of the law. He is, however, suspicious of “new-fangled” management ideas and anyone who calls the profession the legal “industry.” When he gets really cranky about something he blogs at Attorney at Work.

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