Support This Site Design and Sell Merchandise Online for Free

Monday, June 13, 2005

Ethics versus Morality: a second look.

I am sitting here in Professional Responsibility getting absolutely red listening to some of the relativistic thought being espoused by my classmates. My first reaction was to curse the legal profession under my breath . . . yet after I calmed down it began to occur to me: maybe this isn’t just about lawyers, maybe this is an indication of wider social values.

Consider the following Hypothetical:

You are given an assignment to write a 5 page paper, typed, double-spaced, with the instruction that it is to be turned in four days later at promptly 8 A.M and it will amount to 50% of your grade in the course. You are fairly confident it should only take about five hours to complete so instead of starting on the assignment immediately you set it aside and it remains there for 3 ½ days. Finally, on the evening of the third day you pick up the assignment and head to the library with the intention of beginning and completing it in a few hours. However, while on your way you get into an auto accident and are taken to the hospital where you spend the night under the supervision of the hospital.

You are finally released from the hospital at 10 A.M. the following morning and you immediately go to see your professor empty-handed. When you arrive at his office, do you:

A. Explain that you were completely unable to do the assignment because of the auto accident. Therefore, you contend, it isn’t your fault that the assignment is not complete and you deserve an extension without penalty for its lateness?

B. Explain that it is partially your fault the assignment was not completed because you waited, BUT it was reasonable for you to wait and completely unforeseeable that you would be in an auto accident so you deserve an extension without penalty?

C. Explain that it is mostly your fault the assignment was not complete because, although it would not take much time to complete, you should have worked on it sooner and the auto accident was only a partial cause of the fact you don’t have the assignment. Therefore, you ask the professor to be lenient and grant an extension, regardless of whether there is a penalty or not? OR

D. Apologize for not having turned the assignment in, briefly tell him that while certain events made it difficult to complete the assignment on time, it is entirely your fault you don’t have it and you will respectfully abide by any decision on his part?

Which one would you do?

The simple fact of the matter is this: it doesn’t matter whether this is a problem which springs from society-as-a-whole or not. Yes, attorneys are taught how to manipulate the law so as to present favorable outcomes to their clients but this is not supposed to include an outright disdain of the law itself.

When it comes to ethics, then, shouldn’t there be some amount of a reliable constant? It doesn’t matter whether it is harmless or not, a “little bit” of fraud is still fraud. As one classmate pointed out today: “Committing a little bit of fraud is like being a little bit pregnant—it doesn’t matter, you are still pregnant.” And you have also still broken the law.

The Bar’s code of ethics is the only means by which the law-givers and interpreters may ensure that they, themselves, are subject to some form of law.

When we start playing with stuff like that, we no longer deal in law but our stock-in-trade becomes mutable shadows—phantoms—concepts without form, substance, or weight.

And when that becomes the status quo, Justice can longer be feigned—even by the best among us.

I suppose what frightens me is that far too many of my classmates believe the opposite.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Listed on BlogShares