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Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Listening to:Starlight, ELO, in my head
Weather:71, gray, foggy
Yesterday while googling for some info on Magistrate Court stuff in WV I happened upon a young WV lawyer's blog. I'm not going to tell you who it is or give you the URL because I don't want to help this guy get in any more trouble that he's getting himself into.

He's apparently doing some criminal defense and small potatoes civil stuff. When I say small potatoes, I mean small to him, and small to the system, since he's in Magistrate Court. Virtually nothing is small to the litigants, I don't forget that. Anyhoo, he regaled his blogaudience with the details of a couple of appearances in front of his local Magistrate. And he is clearly not a fan. Feel free to consider either gentleman in this story the antecedant for that "he."

I'll spare you the gory, but this lawyer is not a smart guy. First, ragging on the Magistrate in your publication is not going to get you any points with him in your future cases. Duh. Second, even if a Magistrate is outstandingly objective and neutral, and does not hold your ill-advised public rant against you in the future, what client in her right mind is going to hire you for a Magistrate Court case now? Bad for business, dude, seriously. Third, I think it's actually mighty close to or actually an ethics violation to publicly disparage the judiciary. Here's the rule, which I believe follows the Model Rule exactly:

West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct
Maintaining The Integrity Of The Profession
Rule 8.2 Judicial And Legal Officials

(a) A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory officer or public legal officer, or of a candidate for election or appointment to judicial or legal office.

And fourth, you're slamming your whole profession, the whole system you (we) labor in for justice every day. Not cool, sir, not cool.

I'm the last person to say that our system is perfect, or even excellent. I agree that the minimum qualifications for becoming a Magistrate in WV (high school education and win a popularity contest) are unreasonably low, I'd like to see us demand more. But we can always demand more by our choices at the polls. And all that aside, get smart and make your argument about the particular person and behavior at hand. It's just lame to insinuate that every Magistrate is an unprofessional adjudicator, or that the reason this particular Magistrate is unprofessional is because of the system's minimum qualifications standard.

Take it upstairs if you don't like it. Circuit Court judges are all lawyers, will that guarantee you the professionalism you think you are owed? Uh, no it won't. Every individual exercises free will. Daily. So keep taking it upstairs. File a complaint alleging judicial ethics violation. Appeal wrongful decisions. Lobby the legislature for higher qualification standards and increased judicial accountability. Become the Magistrate you wish to see. But your ex parte bitching about a Magistrate in your blog is not helping you, your client, your future clients, your community, or your colleagues.

Did someone move my cheese for this whine?

permalink posted by cat 7:46 AM

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