Culture of Quiescence
48 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2006 Last revised: 16 Sep 2015
Professor Bogus argues that there is a strongly enforced taboo within the Rhode Island legal culture against criticizing the state's governmental institutions, particularly its courts. The targets and enforcers of this taboo are one and the same - lawyers and judges.
The essay describes eight examples, spanning nearly two decades, in which judges or lawyers attempted to punish others for statements deemed critical of the Rhode Island legal system. In some instances, critical statements were made in the public marketplace of ideas. One example concerns comments that Professor Alan Dershowitz of the Harvard Law School made in a book; another concerns comments that Professor Bogus himself made in a newspaper op-ed. Other examples involve statements that lawyers made during the course of litigation, such as a motion requesting that a judge recuse himself. Punishments ranged from writing to the perceived offender's employer to imposing serious and unwarranted sanctions against perceived offenders. The taboo permeates the entire legal culture and affects both state and federal courts.
Professor Bogus argues that this culture - in which criticism is considered professional treason and punished by both courts and colleagues - diminishes the Rhode Island legal system. He argues that the culture is unlikely to change unless lawyers acknowledge the problem and work collectively for reform.
Keywords: Professional Responsibility
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