The American legal profession has a huge problem — it fails address that the most corrupted of its flock remain licensed and can label themselves “lawyer” and/or “attorney.”
We’re not talking here about the run-of-the-mill lawyer who steals from clients or fails to properly represent them. Those failures are indeed serious and the profession has a demonstrable, though weak, track record of weeding out the most incapable and venal of its breed. No, we’re talking about the lawyers who, through a variety of paths to prominence, pervert their knowledge and use it to literally lie about the law to carry out their political agenda. Here are some of the current miscreants in no particular order.
• William P. Barr, the current attorney general of the United States and member of the Virginia and Washington, D.C. bars, has demonstrably broken the law. According to a formal complaint filed with the Virginia State Bar, the attorney general “testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee saying that Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not take the Office of Legal Counsel’s guidelines into consideration to not prosecute Trump — except Mueller explicitly did, stating so in his report. This raises serious questions as to if he committed perjury, a violation of Rule 4.1 of the Virginia State Bar.”
And, in that complaint, Barr refused to comply with a legal subpoena.
In addition, it’s abundantly clear now that Barr’s letter about the Mueller report was replete with false assertions, further aggravating the charges against him, especially after reading relevant parts of the Mueller Report.
Those same complaints were filed with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the District of Columbia’s Court of Appeals.
• Rudolph “Rudy” William Giuliani, a former prosecutor and now representing Donald Trump, has violated the rules of the New York State Bar. Again, it’s Rule 4.1, “Truthfulness In Statements To Others — In the course of representing a client, a lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of fact or law to a third person.”
That complaint is backed up by Ian Bassin and Deana El-Mallawany of Protect Democracy, in which they catalog the series of lies (to date) that Giuliani has spewed on behalf of the president who has proffered more than 10,000 lies in two years.
• Greg Abbott, who was a Texas Supreme Court judge and the attorney general before being elected governor, has shown a disregard for elements of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. Like Virginia, the District of Columbia and New York, Texas Rule 4.01 requires lawyers to be truthful about facts and about the law, to both clients and the public.
Much of Abbott’s right-wing and fascist rhetoric is political opinion. However, Abbott’s attempts to impose his version of Christianity is clearly a violation of the separation of church and state. That’s not all. As the Texas Observer pointed out two material lies by Abbott in an editorial in the San Antonio Express-News about a year ago.
“One, that only criminals need to worry about being asked for their papers under SB 4, and two, that the bill only requires jails to honor immigration detainers when a person is charged with a violent crime,” the Observer noted.
PolitiFact’s scorecard for Abbott shows that 46 percent of his statements range from “Mostly False” to “Pants on Fire” — a dismal record for someone who is bound by his profession’s ethics code. There are more of Abbott’s lies and distortions here.
What are we to make of all this?
These are not normal times. With the President of the United States waging an all-out war on the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution, one could reasonably expect the legal profession’s leadership and prominent members of the various bar associations to stand against the perversion of truth and denigration of ethics. After all, as Bassin and El-Mallawany point out, noting Yale historian Timothy Snyder, this abnormal march toward authoritarianism can’t occur without the help of lawyers.
Conversely, lawyers who adhere to their codes of ethics, who support the rule of law and who buttress the traditions the Founders set out for us can form the bulwark against this growing fascism. And with Congress overwhelmingly and disproportionately populated by lawyers, why haven’t the members of the House and their lawyers not been more aggressive in holding these Trump administration miscreants accountable? The lack of action belies the pontificating about holding people “accountable.” In that context, too, the big question, then, is why are these scoundrel lawyers are allowed to keep their licenses in the face of overwhelming evidence that they violate the core tenets of our justice system and rule of law?