. Legal ethics

Rotting from the top down.

Being a lawyer is hard. It is certainly not the hardest thing in the world to be, but it is hard. Lawyers have lots of obligations and lots of stress. Again, there are many who have things worse, of course.

Among those “lots of obligations” are obligations to supervise those who work for them that are not also lawyers. For lawyers who practice as solo practitioners, they might not have anyone in that category, or they might have one or two such people to supervise. Lawyers who work in firms may have more, sometimes, many more.

Government lawyers can have blurry lines regarding who all is within their realm of supervisory responsibility. Attorneys who work as prosecutors can, for example, have to evaluate not just their supervisory responsibility over direct staff but whether other law enforcement officers’ conduct is something they have to be concerned with from a supervisory perspective.

In any particular jurisdiction, the ethical issues regarding all of this are primarily governed by whatever version of Model Rule 5.3 has been adopted. Other law can come into play as well.

Today’s post isn’t exactly about how all of that works, today’s post is an attempt to suss out how things like this keep happening with respect to the way that agents of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents are doing their jobs and engaging in deceptive, and illegal, conduct. In a different time, the instinct would be to say that the answer to questions of “Where were the lawyers?” would be that they were actively excluded by the other law enforcement officials so as not to know. But then there are things like this that also seem to keep happening.

So, at the moment, the simplest answer I can figure out for how this keeps happening is laid out in the contents of this editorial written by a career Justice Department prosecutor who resigned after 36-plus years of service.