Over at Simple Justice, an interesting thread concerning Her Shrillness.
One commenter suggested that Grace has engaged in “conduct detrimental to the character and civility of the profession” among other things, which is a professional no-no.
Now, you need to be careful about citing an attorney for professional misconduct. When I say careful, I don’t mean reticent or diffident, I mean that you have to be precise. There’s a lot of rough and tumble in lawyering and an understandable reluctance to second guess an attorney in the middle of a fight after the fact. I don’t think it will do, for example, to say that Nancy Grace’s commentary and conduct is “dishonest”, as Mr. Greenfield suggests in the linked article. Lawyers sometimes have to make arguments they don’t even really agree with. Sometimes. Not often. That is probably dishonest, but it would hardly be an ethical problem.
That said, Nancy Grace is clearly guilty of conduct detrimental to the character and civility of the profession in my view. And I’ll be very factually specific: among the various outcomes in legal proceedings there is a lot of room for lawyers to criticize and dissent. Appellate decisions come to mind. But there is one thing at least – there may be other things, too but that question is not presented here – every lawyer has a profound obligation to respect, and that is a jury’s verdict of “not guilty”. Appellate court decisions in general, and for that matter guilty verdicts, can be attacked and denigrated and ridiculed and whatever. But the entire profession must, absolutely must, respect a jury’s verdict of not guilty in a criminal case and must encourage others to do likewise.
And I think the Casey Anthony thing illustrates this perfectly. “Not guilty” verdicts are by definition unpopular, since the entire established order has sought the opposite result. They are often attended by a lot of bitterness and grumbling. In the Casey Anthony case the not guilty verdict has been attended by a lot worse. Jurors have gone into hiding.
At the very least, all lawyers and judges owe it to the jurors, who are like the system’s guests, to defuse and ameliorate to the extent possible any adverse consequences that result from them rendering an unpopular “not guilty” verdict. It’s particularly deplorable that any lawyer anywhere would do the opposite – fan the flames of obloquy – not only undermining a lawful result but arguably endangering people who have only done their duty. A lawyer who does not protect jurors, and by extension the jury system, is a menace. Far more harmful, qualitatively more harmful than the braying mob, because such a lawyer justifies and encourages the braying mob. This is antithetical to the lawyer’s duty. How terrible that after a jury, a group of people that have only the most passing involvement with the justice system, has done its duty it has to confront a mob with lawyers leading it.
I’m not saying lawyers have to agree with a not guilty verdict. And I’m not saying that the same should apply to a guilty verdict, or any other jury or judge determination in a given case; in fact I think otherwise. But I am saying that a lawyer openly dissenting from a not guilty verdict might be properly considered misconduct per se.
I wouldn’t mind some input from other lawyers on this. Grace kind of disgusts me, but that’s beside the point.