I’ve been thinking about this for a few days.
I began this blog with the lawyer’s strike idea: take an especially pernicious robed flavor of the month – so many to choose from – and see if you can rally some lawyers from the relevant jurisdiction to strike until some sort of action is taken.
I tried it out on a pretty good target, one Sharon Keller of Texas. At least I thought she was a pretty good target.
In any event, the effort fizzled and failed. Indeed, it was noteworthy primarily for incurring criticism and disdain from the very people one might have expected to have appreciated the idea and the effort: luminaries of the blawgosphere, many of whom adorn the blogroll to the right.
So, you know, I had to think about whether a similar – not identical, obviously, but similar – effort should be made with respect to Nancy Grace. And I think the effort should be made, for whatever it is worth.
Nancy Grace is guilty of serious misconduct, though not the kind for which attorneys are normally disciplined. That should change.
It is an easy enough calculus for any lawyer cynical and self-serving enough to make: become a shill for the powers that be or the popular will, which often overlap or are even indistinguishable, and enjoy the benefits. These will include money, power and sometimes fame. Certainly that has been the case for Nancy Grace.
That so many lawyers choose this path is lamentable, in my view. It is also ethically challenged, perhaps, but not unethical in and of itself. We are all tempted by the world’s many rewards. Lawyers are not required to be saints.
Yet there are limits. The necessary work of lawyers requires, from time to time for all of them and much more often for the chosen few, the hard labor of opposing the powers that be and the popular will. The Nancy Grace’s of the profession leave this hard work to others. Nothing admirable about that, but again not unethical in and of itself.
What is unethical about Nancy Grace’s behavior, then?
You can leave the hard work to others but you owe them your professional support. When a judge does something unpopular like granting a suppression motion or acquitting a criminal defendant at a bench trial (a non-cop defendant, that is) or awarding a lot of money to an injured person against a municipality or an insurance company, and as a result comes under scrutiny and criticism for the unpopular act, the entire profession needs to speak with one voice in defense of the judge.
When a jury does the same, no lawyer should be heard to criticize the jury. Indeed, to the degree that the powers that be or a rabid public turns its attention to the jury under such circumstances, a lawyer is under an affirmative obligation to defend the jury and quell the public outrage, to the extent that lawyer is called upon.
Nancy Grace has done the opposite in a very prominent way.
There are practical reasons to require this of lawyers and discipline those who willfully fall short: as noted, this particular shirking of one’s professional responsibilities can encourage violence towards jurors and acquitted defendants. But the real reason, the one that applies consistently and across the board so that running afoul of it can be made a matter of attorney discipline, is that it undermines the basic function of the system every lawyer is sworn to uphold.
The third branch of government exists to do the unpopular or disfavored thing when required, and for no other reason. A lawyer who willfully undermines this vital and essential function should be disciplined.
Information about filing a grievance against attorneys from Georgia can be found here. Any member of the public can file one, and I encourage everyone to do so.