Legal Ethics

Legal Ethics

Are lawyers in the criminal justice system considered “pure legal advocates” or “moral agents” – or both? Why?

I believe the lawyer-client relationship is extremely important. Lawyers must abide by law and the Model Rules of Professional Conduct while attending to their client’s wishes. I believe a lawyer could be considered both depending on the situation, or they can be described as separate entities.

If a “pure legal advocate” is described as a lawyer that pledges allegiance to a client that wins cases for his or her client by any means under the law, then that definition can be different from being a moral agent. In this definition, a lawyer would be more dedicated to the law, and using it to represent his or her client no matter the morality of the situation. Moral agents would be lawyers that pledge allegiance to their client as well as the moral rules of lawyers. Pure legal advocates do not necessarily have to be moral. For instance, a pure legal advocate will use any means necessary in the best interests of his or her client. Therefore, they may use loopholes in the law to win a case. A moral agent would adhere to the morality of laws.

For instance, a lawyer and a client have confidentiality. If a client confesses to a lawyer, the lawyer can do everything possible to have the charges dropped (legal advocate), or the lawyer can dismiss themselves from the case on moral grounds. Surely, if the lawyer discloses the information or does not fairly represent the client, the act would be malpractice and immoral; therefore, in this example, the two different types cannot be the same. Lawyers can be considered both in some cases and separate in other cases.

Why would lawyers in the criminal justice system, specifically prosecutors, “misbehave”?

Prosecutors misbehave because it wins convictions. Prosecutors work for the state or the federal government; therefore, special interests and government agendas can steer prosecutors. For example, in Ferguson, the “special prosecutor” acted more like a defense attorney. He had no intention to provide evidence the police officer violated the law. On the other hand, in Baltimore, the prosecutor there presented charges from every avenue imaginable. Special interests can mold prosecutors. Also, presenting statements and evidence that will be rejected in the courtroom still leaves an impression on the jury. There is not much discipline for misbehaving. I have never seen a former defendant suing a prosecutor for malfeasance.

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