DO LAWYERS LEAD THE WAY IN TELLING THE COMPLETE TRUTH?
This article explores whether our leaders tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
A salty old marine insurance manager I used to work with demonstrated for me how one responds to difficult questions in a deposition. He told me there are two bullet-proof answers to any deposition question; "I am not sure", or "Perhaps, but I don't specifically recall". Watching Attorney General Alberto Gonzales responding to Senate inquiries using those tried-and-true methods of equivocation is a sorry example of lawyers not leading the way in telling the complete truth.
Several years ago we had an articulate and thoughtful senior judge from Arizona as our keynote speaker at the Oregon State Bar convention. At the time it was fashionable to lament the loss of civility in our legal world. He had a different message. His message was -- in order for lawyers to again command the respect of the public they must always, always tell the truth. Always.
John Rawls, a noted philosopher and Harvard professor stated in his book, "A Theory of Justice", that truth is the first virtue of thought. As I read the annual reports from our appellate level leaders in Oregon I question whether they are telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. For example, our Chief Justice is calling for more judges and more courtrooms. Yet the volume of case filings at every level of our Oregon court systems is dropping. We say our Appellate Settlement Conference Program is a success yet it is only handling a tiny fraction of all cases appealed.
When I am in a courtroom, I want to know if the judge has read what I have submitted including the cases that I have cited. Do our trial judges tell us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth as to whether they have read what we have provided to them? There should be a rule that each judge should commence a hearing or oral argument by forthrightly telling the parties before them, on the record, what they have read before they rule.
Our Bar leaders are failing the Oregon membership miserably in the complete truth department. What do you know about the New Bar Center (that is to open in January, 2008)? What do you know about why your PLF fees are escalating or your bar dues? Do you know that the Disciplinary Counsel's Office has only 60 pending cases with seven full time lawyers? Do you know their budget makes up over 18% of the entire Bar budget? What has your Board of Governor Member reported to you lately? Have they advised you to start working on your resolutions for the next House of Delegates meeting? Do you know the deadlines? What efficiencies has the Bar adopted to improve the delivery of goods and services? The complete truth is the first virtue of thought. Are our leaders virtuous? It really is a powerful concept to not only tell the truth, but also the whole truth.