Introduction: The Ethics of Lawyers in Government
6 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2020 Last revised: 10 Feb 2021
Date Written: 2019
On January, 3, 2019, the AALS Professional Responsibility Section held its annual program on the topic, The Ethics of Lawyers in Government, in New Orleans, Louisiana. This article introduces and overviews the presentations made at that program. Professor Tarkington, who served as the Chair of the Professional Responsibility Section, moderated the program. Kathleen Clark presented the article which is published following this introduction.
It is likely impossible to articulate or capture the importance of ethics in government. Corruption in government or, as Vincent Blasi stated, “the abuse of official power” is, in fact, “an especially serious evil.” Government officials can commandeer the police power of the state and the full weight of government power to their selfish ends if the abuse of their power is not checked.
Oddly enough, lawyers—both in and outside of government service—provide a major role in checking the use and abuse of government power and official self-dealing. Lawyers inside government service have the opportunity to be gatekeepers for the rule of law and defenders of due process. The basic premise of due process is that government will not deprive people of life, liberty, and property without adherence to legal processes and substantive rights. Government lawyers are poised to uphold due process and constitutional governance—and thus arguably have a heightened duty to ensure that their client is acting justly and in accordance with law.
Keywords: Government lawyers, professional responsibility, legal ethics, government ethics
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