Lawyer shaming — as someone might say, not a joke

Ten years ago I was invited to speak to the Professional Responsibility section of the Federalist Society at the National Lawyers Convention. Section head Jack Park had followed my comments addressing Minnesota’s elimination-of-bias continuing legal education requirement and asked me to address it in a program that satisfied the requirement itself. GWU Law Professor Thomas Morgan (a scholar and a gentleman) was my counterpart on the panel, which was moderated by then Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras, now a member of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

I posted the text of my remarks on Power Line in “Bias in the air.” I separately added two footnotes. As I say, this was ten years ago, but the fundamental things apply as time goes by — in this case, only more so. The program provided a useful means of satisfying the offensive CLE requirement that has been adopted in several states.

The Federalist Society takes another whack at it next Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern) when its Freedom of Thought Project sponsors “Anti-Bias CLE: Lawyer Shaming: Legal Ethics, the Rule of Law, and Equal Access to Justice.” What’s it all about?

American lawyers have a proud tradition of representing unpopular clients, but they are increasingly shamed, harassed, and retaliated against for such representation. Lawyer shaming is a growing problem, both within and outside the legal profession. This course will help lawyers understand and combat lawyer shaming as a source of explicit, implicit, and systemic bias that threatens equal access to justice and ultimately the rule of law.

The rule of law promises equal justice for all. Fulfilling that promise in our adversarial system requires equal access to effective legal representation for all parties—no matter how unpopular. Indeed, it is usually the unpopular and marginalized that most need zealous advocacy to vindicate their legal rights. Such individuals and groups will remain underserved by the legal profession, however, if lawyers are criticized or targeted for their clients and the arguments made on their behalf. Pressuring lawyers to drop or decline controversial clients reduces the availability of effective counsel, making it harder for courts to get the law and facts right….

“Lawyer shaming” sounds like a joke, and several of the examples offered in the prospectus don’t exactly discourage derision, but the program applies the term to a serious subject that I have taken up in connection with the Derek Chauvin case. I decried Chauvin’s difficulty finding a lawyer to represent him on the appeal of his conviction for murdering George Floyd. My friend Bill Mohrman answered the call in Chauvin’s case. This Federalist Society program may be of interest to anyone concerned about the way we live now.

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