Complicity in the Perversion of Justice: The Role of Lawyers in Eroding the Rule of Law in the Third Reich

46 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2020

See all articles by Cynthia L. Fountaine

Cynthia L. Fountaine

Southern Illinois University School of Law

Date Written: July 1, 2020


A fundamental tenet of the legal profession is that lawyers and judges are uniquely responsible — individually and collectively — for protecting the Rule of Law. This Article considers the failings of the legal profession in living up to that responsibility during Germany’s Third Reich. The incremental steps used by the Nazis to gain control of the German legal system — beginning as early as 1920 when the Nazi Party adopted a party platform that included a plan for a new legal system — turned the legal system on its head and destroyed the Rule of Law. By failing to uphold the integrity and independence of the profession, lawyers and judges permitted and ultimately collaborated in the subversion of the basic lawyer–client relationship, the abrogation of the lawyer’s role as advocate, and the elimination of judicial independence. As a result, while there was an elaborate facade of laws, the fundamental features of the Rule of Law no longer existed and in their place had grown an arbitrary and chaotic system leaving people without any protection from a violent, totalitarian government.

Keywords: Legal Ethics, Legal Profession, Lawyers, Professional Responsibility, Civil Rights, Holocaust, Rule of Law, Legal History, Nazi Legal System, Third Reich, Genocide, Human Rights, International Human Rights, Judges, WWII, World War II

Suggested Citation

Fountaine, Cynthia L., Complicity in the Perversion of Justice: The Role of Lawyers in Eroding the Rule of Law in the Third Reich (July 1, 2020). 10 St. Mary's Journal on Legal Malpractice & Ethics 198 (2020). Available at, Available at SSRN:

Cynthia L. Fountaine (Contact Author)

Southern Illinois University School of Law ( email )

Carbondale, IL
United States
817-453-8761 (Phone)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics