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AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION.
(Organized at Saratoga Springs, New York, August 21, 1878.)
“Its object shall be to advance the science of jurisprudence, promote the administration of justice and uniformity of legislation and of judicial decision throughout the nation, uphold the honor of the profession of the law, and encourage cordial intercourse among the members of the American Bar.” (Constitution, Article I.)
There is certainly, without any exception, no profession in which so many temptations beset the path to swerve from the line of strict integrity, in which so many delicate and difficult questions of duty are continually arising. There are pitfalls and mantraps at every step, and the mere youth, at the very outset of his career, needs often the prudence and self-denial as well as the moral courage, which belong commonly to riper years. High moral principle is the only safe guide, the only torch to light his way amidst darkness and obstruction."-GEORGE SHARSWOOD.
“ Craft is the vice, not the spirit, of the profession. Trick is professional prostitution. Falsehood is professional apostasy. The strength of a lawyer is in thorough knowledge of legal truth, in thorough devotion to legal right. Truth and integrity can do more in the profession than the subtlest and wiliest devices. The power of integrity is the rule; the power of fraud is the exception. Emulation and zeal lead lawyers astray; but the general law of the profession is duty, not success. In it, as elsewhere, in human life, the judgment of success is but the verdict of little minds. Professional duty, faithfully and well performed, is the lawyer's glory. This is equally true of the Bench and of the Bar.”—EDWARD G. RYAN.
Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser-in fees, expenses and waste of time. As a peace maker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be found than one who does this. Who can be more nearly a fiend than he who habitually overhauls the register of deeds in search of defects in titles, whereupon to stir up strife and put money in his pocket? A moral tone ought to be enforced in the profession which would drive such men out of it."-ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
CANONS OF ETHICS.
PREAMBLE. In America, where the stability of courts and of all departments of government rests upon the approval of the people, it is peculiarly essential that the system for establishing and dispensing justice be developed to a high point of efficiency and so maintained that the public shall have absolute confidence in the integrity and impartiality of its administration. The future of the republic, to a great extent, depends upon our maintenance of justice pure and unsullied. It cannot be so maintained unless the conduct and the motives of the members of our profession are such as to merit the approval of all just men.
THE CANONS OF ETHICS.* No code or set of rules can be framed which will particularize all the duties of the lawyer in the varying phases of litigation or in all the relations of professional life. The following canons of ethics are adopted by the American Bar Association as a general guide, yet the enumeration of particular duties should not be construed as a denial of the existence of others equally imperative, though not specifically mentioned:
1. The Duty of the Lawyer to the Courts. It is the duty of the lawyer to maintain toward the Courts a respectful attitude, not for the sake of the temporary incumbent of the judicial office, but for the maintenance of its supreme importance. Judges, not being wholly free to defend themselves, are peculiarly entitled to receive the support of the Bar against unjust criticism and clamor. Whenever there is proper ground for serious complaint of a judicial officer, it is the right and duty of the lawyer to submit his grievances to the proper authorities. In such cases, but not otherwise, such charges should be encouraged and the person making them should be protected
2. The Selection of Judges. It is the duty of the Bar to endeavor to prevent political considerations from outweighing judicial fitness in the selection of Judges. It should protest earnestly and actively
* For Index and Synopsis of Canons, see p. 17.
against the appointment or election of those who are unsuitable for the Bench; and it should strive to have elevated thereto only those willing to forego other employments, whether of a business, political or other character, which may embarrass their free and fair consideration of questions before them for decision. The aspiration of lawyers for judicial position should be governed by an impartial estimate of their ability to add honor to the office and not by a desire for the distinction the position may bring to themselves.
3. Attempts to Exert Personal Influence on the Court.—Marked attention and unusual hospitality on the part of a lawyer to a Judge, uncalled for by the personal relations of the parties, subject both the Judge and the lawyer to misconstructions of motive and should be avoided. A lawyer should not communicate or argue privately with the Judge as to the merits of a pending cause, and he deserves rebuke and denunciation for any device or attempt to gain from a Judge special personal consideration or favor. A selfrespecting independence in the discharge of professional duty, without denial or diminution of the courtesy and respect due the Judge's station, is the only proper foundation for cordial personal and official relations between Bench and Bar.
4. When Counsel for an Indigent Prisoner.-A lawyer assigned as counsel for an indigent prisoner ought not to ask to be excused for any trivial reason, and should always exert his best efforts in his behalf.
5. The Defense or Prosecution of Those Accused of Crime. It is the right of the lawyer to undertake the defense of a person accused of crime, regardless of his personal opinion as to the guilt of the accused; otherwise innocent persons, victims only of suspicious circumstances, might be denied proper defense. Having undertaken such defense, the lawyer is bound by all fair and honorable means, to present every defense that the law of the land permits, to the end that no person may be deprived of life or liberty, but by due process of law.
The primary duty of a lawyer engaged in public prosecution is not to convict, but to see that justice is done. The suppression of facts or the secreting of witnesses capable of establishing the innocence of the accused is highly reprehensible.
6. Adverse Influences and Conflicting Interests. It is the duty of a lawyer at the time of retainer to disclose to the client all the circumstances of his relations to the parties, and any interest in or connection with the controversy, which might influence the client in the selection of counsel.
It is unprofessional to represent conflicting interests, except by express consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts. Within the meaning of this canon, a lawyer represents conflicting interests when, in behalf of one client, it is his duty to contend for that which duty to another client requires him to oppose.
The obligation to represent the client with undivided Adelity and not to divulge his secrets or confidences forbids also the subsequent acceptance of retainers or employment from others in matters adversely affecting any interests of the client with respect to which confidence has been reported.
7. Professional Colleagues and Conflicts of Opinion.-A client's proffer of assistance of additional counsel should not be regarded as evidence of want of confidence, but the matter should be left to the determination of the client. A lawyer should decline association as colleague if it is objectionable to the original counsel, but if the lawyer first retained is relieved, another may come into the case.
When lawyers jointly associated in a cause cannot agree as to any matter vital to the interest of the client, the conflict of opinion should be frankly stated to him for his final determination. His decision should be accepted unless the nature of the difference makes it impracticable for the lawyer whose judgment has been overruled to cooperate effectively. In this event it is his duty to ask the client to relieve him.
Efforts, direct or indirect, in any way to encroach upon the business of another lawyer, are unworthy of those who should be brethren at the Bar; but nevertheless, it is the right of any lawyer, without fear or favor, to give proper advice to those seeking relief against unfaithful or neglectful counsel, generally after communication with the lawyer of whom the complaint is made.
8. Advising upon the Merits of a Client's Cause.-A lawyer should endeavor to obtain full knowledge of his client's cause before advising thereon, and he is bound to give a candid opinion of the merits and probable result of pending or contemplated litigation. The miscarriages to which justice is subject, by reason of surprises and disappointments in evidence and witnesses, and through mistakes ot ies and errors of Courts, even though only occasional, ad. monish lawyers to beware of bold and confident assurances to clients, especially where the employment may depend upon such assurance. Whenever the controversy will admit of fair adjustment, the client should be advised to avoid or to end the litigation.
9. Negotlations with Opposite Party.-A lawyer should not in any way communicate upon the subject of controversy with a party represented by counsel; much less should he undertake to negotiate or compromise the matter with him, but should deal only with his counsel. It is incumbent upon the lawyer most particularly to avoid everything that may tend to mislead a party not represented by counsel, and he should not undertake to advise him as to the law.
10. Acquiring Interest in Litigation.-The lawyer should not purchase any interest in the subject matter of the litigation which he is conducting.