After more than 40 years as an investigative reporter, I’ve sat in hundreds of courtrooms and watched thousands of lawyers up close and personal. And I have many friends and two family members who are lawyers. But I make no secret of the fact that the legal practice is in desperate need of reform. Over the four decades I’ve watched defense attorneys lie their butts off in the courtroom. And I’ve seen the same thing from prosecutors. Sure, the Constitution guarantees that each accused suspect gets to have the best possible defense. But if that defense is an outrageous and provable lie, then something is fundamentally wrong with the American legal system.
F. Lee Bailey claims in his book, The Defense Never Rests, that he has never defended a guilty man. “If they’re guilty, I plead them out,” he says. “But when I take their case they’re all innocent.” OK, OK, I get that. Every suspect is innocent until proven guilty, but that begs the point. The entire world knew that O.J Simpson was guilty as sin. But through manipulation, distraction, and lies, Bailey and his phalanx of fellow attorneys got the contemptible Simpson off of his murder charge.
The civil arena is just as corrupt. How else could lawyer Senator John Edwards earn 40 million dollars in his pharmaceutical malpractice case? That forty million bucks came right out of the pockets of the common man who has to buy prescription medicine. It led pharmaceutical companies not to release new medications which could have saved thousands of lives.
This perspective leads me to link you to a recent story from the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. The writer wonders about the rash of Kentucky lawyers who’ve committed suicide in recent months. Although suicides are rarely tallied by profession, the reporter discovered that since 2010 fourteen lawyers in that state took their own lives. And across the country, the number of lawyers who kill themselves is way above the national average among all other occupations.
Suicide is tragic. It will always be tragic. But one wonders if some of the guilt and depression among those in the law might be eased if all lawyers honestly believed their profession was always ethical and above reproach.