Topic: Professions & Institutions

Lying Lawyers

In the sports pages on March 3, there is a shining example of why most people think lawyers are paid liars.

It is a statement by the attorney for Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield, responding to reports that federal investigators have records indicating that her client was given illegal steroids and human growth hormone over the past couple years. The attorney, Paula Canny, said, “Gary Sheffield has never knowingly taken steroids or any illegal drugs, for that matter. That is true, that is absolutely true.”

The professional ethics rules governing all attorneys declare that it is professional misconduct for an attorney to engage in “Misrepresentation, dishonesty, deceit or fraud.” This statement is a lie now, on its face, no matter what transpires later. She is making an assertion of the absolute truth of matters that she personally cannot know. She does not know, nor can she know, what her client has done, or what he knew while he did it. All she can state as “absolutely true” is the fact that he has said that he never knowingly took the banned substances. (And it is highly likely, from what we know of the case, the facts, and her client, that it will be shown that he is not, in fact, being truthful.)

These publicized statements by lawyers do more damage to the reputation and perceived integrity of the legal profession, do more to undermine faith in the legal system, than all the skimmed funds, missed deadlines, and sleazy TV ads that form the bulk of the legal establishment’s complaints against unethical lawyers. The bar associations have the language in their rules to discipline lawyers for lying in public on their clients’ behalf.

They need to use it, or stop complaining about those lawyer jokes.

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