WASHINGTON lawyer Joseph L. Rauh Jr. is proposing that lawyers apply a new ethical standard in deciding whether or not to represent a client's position in a case. No lawyer, Rauh will tell the University of Minnesota Law School in a Law Day address, should take a position on behalf of a client that conflicts with his or her own personal convictions.
Rauh readily concedes that the standard he advocates is not the one employed by most lawyers. In fact, attorneys are prone to say that their obligation is to represent the interests of their clients, without passing judgment on the morality of the client or the cause. It is for this reason as much as anything else, Rauh argues, that lawyers are held in such relatively low esteem by the public.
Rauh's stated target is what he calls the "hired gun" theory or, alternatively, the principle that "everyone is entitled to a lawyer." The way it works, Rauh says, is that lawyers often wind up holding their noses at positions they take for clients and then justify their actions as fulfiling their professional obligation to the client's interests. But, Rauh asks, doesn't the lawyer have an obligation not to take a position he or she believes is wrong or harmful to the public interest? "How," Rauh asks, "does a lawyer justify a double life, a schizophrenia of one position as a lawyer, another as a citizen?"
refusing to argue positions inconsistent with one's personal beliefs "does not mean that there is any one right position to advocate," Rauh says. "One lawyer may vigorously defend the rights of organized labor, while another may just as conscientiously defend the antiunion actions of Right to Work groups. It is not the position itself which is critical; it is the lawyer's belief in the position that should be determinative."
Rauh goes on to attack the "everyone-is-entitled-to-a-lawyer" argument as a sham and a subterfuge that lawyers hide behind when represent well-heeled clients in unpopular cases. Why, he asks, did persons suspected of being Communists have such a hard time getting lawyers in the 1950s if lawyers really believed everyone was entitled to legal representation? Or why were lawyers in the South reluctant to take civil rights cases?
Rauh's proposed standard has some obvious problems. Criminal defense lawyers would be hard-pressed to represent clients if they had to be convinced of their clients' innocence first. Rauh says he would represent a defendant if no one else would. But who wants a lawyer who's handling the case in that grudging way? "Maybe the thing doesn't apply to the criminal law," Rauh conceded in a telephone interview. He said he really meant it to apply to civil cases.
"Only by ending once and for all this philosophy ofadvocacy without moral responsibility can lawyers fulfill the special obligation our profession has to the people of this country and the law of the land, and begin to win back the esteem of their fellow citizens," Rauh asserts.
"If somebody's got a better idea," Rauph said in the interview, "let's hear it. But let's don't pretend the thing is going well."
Law day in Washington will be celebrated this year with a variety of programs. The District of Columbia bar is having a luncheon at the Washington Hilton Hotel to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the supreme court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education (which was consolidated with Bolling v. Sharpe, the companion case brought in the District of Columbia). William T. Coleman, chairman of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and former secretary of transportation in the Ford administration, will speak.
George Washington University's National Law Center Dean Robert Kramer, retiring after holding that position for 18 years, will be honored at a luncheon this Wednesday at the Mayflower Hotel. Kramer will be succeeded by Jerome A. Barron, a law professor at George Washington. Also retiring are Associate Dean W. Wallace Kirkpatrick and Prof. Harold P. Green.
Next Saturday, the first annual Community Law Fair will be held in Judiciary Square. The fair, which commemorates Law Day, is being held on a Saturday so that families can attend. The idea behind the fair, according to the sponsors, is to give the community an idea of how lawyers work and what services they offer. All of the city's major bar associations are sponsoring the fair.
One purpose, according to Dawn V. White, one of the lawyers working on the event, is to get across the idea that lawyers can help avert crises if consulted in time, rather than being available only after disaster has struck.
A Lawyer's Arcade, where attorneys will offer "guidance and direction" about available services for people with problems (but not legal advice) will be set up in the Pension Biulding at 4th and F St. NW, right across from Judiciary Square. Counseling for problems like domestic relations, employment discrimination, landlord-tenant difficulties, consumer affairs, government health and income benefits and wills and estates will be offered.
The fair is free and will have a puppet show for children, a hot-air balloon supplied by NASA (but no rides), entertainment, hot dogs and ice cream and a plant clinic for people having horticultural problems. The fair will run from 9 a.m until 6 p.m.