Are the Judge and the Lawyers in Cahoots against You? Slim Chance!
Like millions of others across the globe, I appreciate the body of work of the late character actor Slim Pickens. He is perhaps most notably remembered for his portrayal of Maj. Kong in “Dr. Strangelove”. However, from time to time I will receive a call from a person with a legal need that harkens me back to the actor’s role as Hollis Woods in the Steven Spielberg film “1941”. In that comedy, Pickens plays the role of a lumber jack kidnapped and held off the California coast in an enemy submarine just after America’s entry in World War Two. While being interrogated by the Japanese Navy, a German officer appears to try to make him talk. Upon seeing him, Pickens’ character exclaims “I knew it, you’re all in cahoots”!
Sadly, there are a sizeable number of people who think that those involved in the legal system are in league together plotting against them. When I hear statements such as “I know the judge and that lawyer are in cahoots together” it is troubling. I am tempted to respond “Friend, I do not think that is the case. I was at our secret bunker last week at the evil lawyers meeting and your name did not come up on our list of people whose lives we plan to destroy this month. Perhaps the evidence showed that you really do owe $627 to your dentist in that magistrate court lawsuit you lost”. But instead, if time permits, I do try to assure the caller that our legal system, while not perfect is still one of the most honorable professions that exists.
The practice of law is a heavily regulated profession. Lawyers take an oath and are bound to comply with certain rules. When they do not, they can be disciplined which in some cases requires that they be disbarred and no longer practice law. A statistic I read attributed to the American Bar Association indicates that nationally, 99.77 % of lawyers do NOT receive any public discipline for ethical misconduct in any given year.
Judges are also regulated. In Georgia the Judicial Qualifications Commission has the power to investigate and prosecute matters involving judicial misconduct in the state and local court systems. Such matters do come up from time to time but are very rare. A secondary form of protection is the ballot box. Most judges at the state and local level are elected. In the event a judge starts acting in a way unbecoming of his or her office, he or she may face well financed and supported opposition candidates on election day and lose their job. On the federal side, federal judges can be impeached for misconduct by Congress. Instances of this too are very rare.
The vast majority of judges are hard working and honest public servants that deserve our respect. The vast majority of lawyers are professionals who operate within ethical guidelines that they have sworn to uphold. There are as in any field or profession a small number of bad actors that can cloud one’s view of the legal profession. Such activities are not tolerated by members of the bench and bar.
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