Lawyer Being Prosecuted for Suborning Perjury:

Often a hard crime to prove, but not here; according to,

In the days before [his client's] appearance in court, [attorney Scott] Pratt is accused of sending two emails advising his client . . . of what she should say on the witness stand.

One email says in part: "they won't have anyone there to testify how much you had to drink. You won't be charged with perjury. I've never seen them charge anyone with perjury, and everybody lies in criminal cases, including the cops. If you want to tell the truth, then we'll just plead guilty and you can get your jail time over with."

Thanks to Tom McKenna (CrimLaw) for the pointer.

Cornellian (mail):
Wow, I can't fathom how anyone smart enough to get a law degree could be stupid enough to commit that advice to email. That guy is clearly too dumb to be practicing law.
12.16.2005 5:48pm
Anon (obviously):
Cornellian - You're sweet to think that, but I've unfortunately dealt with some (temporary contract) lawyers who were so stupid I couldn't figure out (a) how they passed the bar and (b) how they found the bathroom each morning. A couple were spectacularly dishonest, too.

And no, they didn't last long on the job. Don't know what the temp agency did with them afterwards (and frankly don't care).
12.16.2005 5:59pm
Just confirms everyone's stereotype of lawyers, especially those that take any and all DUI cases, as scum.
12.16.2005 6:30pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
I'm always impressed how many people videotape themselves committing felonies, like bragging about how they are going to kill someone--and then do so--or having sex with obviously underage girls. Can anyone be that stupid? Or do they secretly want to get caught?
12.16.2005 6:39pm
Cynic about smart people (mail):
This guy sounds as dumb as they come. But putting him aside, I agree that plenty of lawyers are too dumb to find the bathroom, but disagree with any implication (if such an implication is there) that the dumb ones are the ones with marginal jobs (contractors) or from lousy schools, etc.

I have worked with my share of platinum-resume types who have no common sense and no judgment.

Sure, suborning perjury in writing is incredibly dumb. But is it much less dumb than urging someone to lie, when you are (a) talking on the phone and (b) running for President and you know that the likelihood of being taped and outed in the tabloids should be high? Didn't Bill "Genius" Clinton tell one of his Arkansas conquests that you can just deny what happened, and deny that you talked to me? And wasn't his ham-handed attempt to shape Lewinsky's testimony also pretty much close to the line, if not over it, on suborning perjury?

I don't mean to turn this into a Clinton argument generally, or to re-open the specific "but was it ACTUALLY perjury" debate. Take the most charitable reading in his favor, and assume he was a victim of a terrible wrong, and all that. But still, was it not dumb beyond belief to encourage that many people to join the web of lies? That alone should clinch that supposedly "smart" people do things that are darn dumb. Some may only do so in more desperate circumstances, and some may do it to routinely cover up affairs or gambling or whatever, and some may do it every day to get their DUI clients off. But they do it just the same.
12.16.2005 6:48pm
TomHynes (mail):
Congratulations to the client for realizing she had a "get out of jail free" card in that e-mail. My bet is the DUI case goes away.
12.16.2005 6:58pm
Some of us defense lawyers take our job and ethics seriously. If she couldn't testify without lying, the advice you give, which you never give any legal advice in a criminal matter over email, would be to NOT TESTIFY. Then explain the exposure and risk involved in simply attacking the prosecution's evidence, whatever that may be, and discuss a plea.

my oh my.
12.16.2005 7:57pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I don't know where contempt lies here (it probably does), but subornation of perjury surely does. Kripes--just the first letter, where he cooks up an entire story for his client, let alone the second one, where he makes it utterly clear what he is encouraging. (What is equally appalling is that the facts he states are quite true: prosecution witnesses lie out of hand, and nobody on either side ever gets charged with perjury unless somebody gets a real hard on).

As far as the arrogance -- a narcissist figures he is above the law anyway. And he's probably done it for some time and gotten away with it.

Once, in government work, an official who was going to testify before a Congressional committee -- probably under oath -- asked one of the attorneys to prepare Q &As for him. The attorney he went to was one of the most honorable fellows I've ever met, and sat him down and explained why he wouldn't do it. He could offer advice, could do the Qs, but wouldn't do the answers. Neither of them understood that perjury was being requested -- but the attorney knew that he had no business saying what the answers were.
12.16.2005 8:19pm
prosecution witnesses lie out of hand

Evidence? Or are you a bitter defense attorney who lost all his cases?
12.16.2005 8:54pm
Splunge (mail):
Hey, I'll adduce some evidence. I was once riding my bicycle at night in Oakland, and I saw a policeman stop a car and give the guy a ticket. I was puzzled, because it looked like the guy had done nothing wrong. So after the cop left, I went over to the guy and asked him. What'd you give a ticket for? He told me for failing to yield on a left turn into traffic, which flabbergasted me, as no such thing had occured, not even a little bit, not in anyone's wildest dreams.

So I told the guy: if you take this to court, I'll come in and be a witness, here's my name and number. He did. I went to court and testified for him. Now, what I was expecting was that it would come down to some subtle question of what precisely yielding to traffic meant, as in, did the guy poke the front of his car too far out into traffic, or something like that. He might well lose on the grounds that the policeman's judgment on he scene about that is to be given deference, which is not unreasonable.

But what was stunning is that this is not what happened at all. A regular Oakland sworn police officer got up on the stand and made a story up, a complete fantasy involving this fellow dashing his car out into four lanes of traffic, and the cop having to slam on his brakes and go into a four-wheel skid to avoid a major accident. It was not just a little stretchin' of the truth, or a matter of point of view: it was bald lie from start to finish.

Needless to say, the guy lost the case. But I was shocked, since I'd been raised to think policemen had high standards of truthfulness, given the presumption of honesty they are given in the Courtroom, and even if I could see a cop stretching things a bit to put a real criminal behind bars, it would seem ludicrous to nail some poor slob on a minor traffic infraction. So that was an eye-opener. I don't say most cops aren't honest, but I do say that even one dishonest cop is such a disaster for the force that they'd be best advised to take him out and shoot him themselves. Sorry if this is a bit off-topic.
12.16.2005 9:44pm
therut (mail):
I could testify in several cases of attorneys telling their clients to lie if someone wanted to press charges. Problem is I don't know who to ask to prosecute such a case. Ask any physician and I bet they can tell the same stories I can. Patients will admit to me their lawyers tells them to keep coming back every 2 weeks to see me after a fender bender to run up bills and make it look like the neck pain is legit until the case is settled. Same with disability -patients tell me again that the reason they show up in the clinic or the ER is because their lawyer told them to to run up medical bills that will make the disablility easier to get. I could go on and on. Would someone like to start representing a whistle blower physician. NO???????? Didn't think so.
12.16.2005 10:17pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
prosecution witnesses lie out of hand

Evidence? Or are you a bitter defense attorney who lost all his cases?

I've handled a few cases on criminal defense, but I don't like the field and so they have been rather few. Maybe four appeals, no trials, in the last ten years, and I can't recall in any of the appeals where the law enforcement officers' veracity was seriously questionable. Maybe they colored the truth a little, or claimed to have better eyesight than seemed likely, but it was at least in the ballpark to where I can't fairly say anyone was lying.

But I also spent nine, almost ten, years where a major duty was representing a federal law enforcement agency, at the headquarters level. They lie. I learned quickly not to trust them unless I'd had one-on-one experience enough to know they were honest (and then had to protect them against their bosses, who thought a fellow who lost a case through honesty had failed). The same held for agents who were too reasonable. When they were on the level I backed them to the hilt. But not otherwise (whereupon they usually went behind my back in one way or another).

Might add that I knew two guys in law school who went on to become the top and second ranked prosecutors here (under the county attorney, which is an elective post and thus doesn't do trial work). One just got disbarred for suborning a police officer's perjury in a capital case (the officer himself was prosecuted, the prosecutor was not, surprise). The other died, and in his files was found undisclosed Brady material, indicative of innocence and which should have been disclosed, in around a dozen capital cases. These were, I repeat, capital cases. These were guys I knew and liked. What the disagreeable ones were like I would prefer not to know.
12.16.2005 11:00pm
The Captain:
JohnAnnArbor: I recommend the book Courtroom 302 by Steve Bogira, which is an excellent insight into a criminal court in Chicago. I also recommend you get a clue. There's a mountain of case law regarding the misconduct of prosecutors and their investigating agencies. Are you really this ignorant?

Maybe you are a prosecutor, and don't really question what your police officers do. A decent prosecutor challenges their police officers in the intake, because they often have the same story to tell about a stop and frisk or auto search. Also, narcotics teams often write up their buy/bust reports in the same room at the same time, for the sake of "accuracy."

Maybe you just don't know what you are talking about. Sad.
12.16.2005 11:44pm
Conrad (mail):
Perjury by law enforcement officers is a widespread and serious problem. Don't believe me? Ask NY, Boston and LA police chief William Bratton, who has decired it and called it "a serous concern" practice in the Boston Globe.

Indeed, the practice has so common it has spawned a new word -- "testilying" and merits its own entry in Wikipedia .

See also, University of Colorado Law Review

The sad fact is that parties lie in court all the time at every level. I practiced for quite a few years as a commercial litigator at two of the very elite law firms in the US. In the time I encountered many clients (including CEOs, senior executives and board members of Fortune 100 companies, senior governemnt officials and, in one case, a Catholic bishop) determined to lie on the stand. I came to view witness statements taken before full discover as almost useless and often worse than useless. I can only imagine how widespread the practice must be at the "lower" end of the litigation world where far fewer resources are expended to root out duplicity and parties are far more likley to destroy discoverable evidence refuting their stories.

I know practice primarily as an arbitrator in internatinal proceedings -- effectively a 'private trial court judge' and the amount of outright perjury I see is disheartening.
12.17.2005 3:46am
NickM (mail) (www):
I'm not shocked by witnesses of any kind lying, although I still find it amazing when easily conclusively provable lies are presented to a court. I had a case a couple years ago where a business associate of an opposing party falsely claimed to be a lawyer in the first paragraph of a declaration filed with the court in opposition to a motion I made. When there is one lawyer in the state with that last name, and he has a different first name, it's just not that hard to show the court that perjury is going on.

My 3 most memorable rationalizations from clients as to lies I had confronted them about are:
"I thought it sounded better this way."
"I didn't think you would have taken the case if I told you about that when we first met."
"He's never going to find out." [This one was said in reference to something that the opposing counsel could find out in less than a minute on LEXIS or Westlaw.]

12.17.2005 6:21am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Although this sounds like a typical example of the TSTBA effect (too stupid to be alive), I've learned through experience that even very smart people in a narrow specialty can be stupid at everything else. I have known brilliant mathematicians who I wouldn't trust to mail a letter. I don't know how they can even get dressed in the morning.

We know that certain kinds of brain damage can cause people to lack all sense of risk aversion. See "Lessons From the Brain Damaged Investor" in a recent WSJ issue.

These people can't experience the normal fear and anxiety that inhibit risk taking. As the article discusses, these people actually have a competitive advantage when it comes to investing. But I suspect the inability to manage risk is characteristic of many dumb criminals and even a few smart lawyers who get themselves in trouble.
12.17.2005 3:14pm
Idealist (mail):
I think most people, including the police, are honest. That being said, in preparing witnesses to testify in civil cases I always make a point of impressing upon them the importance of telling the truth, because I have had witnesses who seemed much too ready to say whatever they thought I wanted to hear. As for criminal cases, a former boss of mine who spent many years in the U.S. Attorney's office once told me (at least half seriously) that in a courtroom, two things are almost always true: the defendant is guilty and the police are lying.
12.17.2005 4:42pm
No long ago, I and opposing counsel took some depositions. First deposed was my best witness, who was not as strong a witness as one would hope for. Listening to her deposition testimony, I easily envisioned a scenario in which the defendant could explain that the witnesses observations were correct but that there was an innocent explanation (and a very reasonable one).

So when I deposed the defendant, I asked her whether my witnesses observations were correct. She vehemently denied them. She said she had not done what my witness said she observed.

Opposing counsel then asked his client whether it was possible that my witness was correct but that the innocent explanation (detailed by him in the question) applied. I did not object or say anything. I let him spin the scenario and get her to affirm it.

If this case does not settle, the jury will learn of that exchange. Opposing counsel just sewed me a silk purse out of my sow's ear.

Opposing counsel is intelligent, practicing at a good firm, and my past experience has found his ethics to be above reproach.
12.17.2005 5:32pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
The Captain: You might well be right on the substance, but it's (1) more rhetorically effective, (2) more likely to yield helpful discussion, (3) nicer, and (4) more consistent with the blog's rules (see the policy at the bottom of this page) to make the substantive points without trying to insult or demean your adversary, however wrong you think he might be.
12.17.2005 5:56pm
Visitor Again:
What about the statement of John AnnArbor, to which the Captain responded, that those who say the police lie must be bitter defense lawyers who lose all their cases? As well as being garbage, that's ad hominem, isn't it? But it goes unmentioned by Eugene Volokh, who singled out only The Captain for his little lecture on decorum. If you're going to judge these things, Eugene, at least pretend to be neutral.

I'd say John got the response he deserved, particularly since he appears to live in a cocoon that shelters him from reality and abuses those who do not share his consequent ignorance.
12.17.2005 7:54pm
Visitor Again:
Just confirms everyone's stereotype of lawyers, especially those that take any and all DUI cases, as scum.

And this was another of JohnAnnArbor's contributions above. Also ignored by one Eugene Volokh.

Eugene, when you defend this jerk from those who counter him in the language he understands, you only encourage him to continue his abuse. Don't you see that?
12.17.2005 8:00pm
nk (mail) (www):
TomHynes has it right. The lawyer who represents trash faces many dangers from his own clients. The "will you let me go if I give you a lawyer?" is just one. This poor guy let his zealousness get ahead of his common sense. I do not believe that he is either stupid or criminal -- just in the wrong line of work.
12.17.2005 11:03pm
Cornellian (mail):
Needless to say, the guy lost the case. But I was shocked, since I'd been raised to think policemen had high standards of truthfulness, given the presumption of honesty they are given in the Courtroom, and even if I could see a cop stretching things a bit to put a real criminal behind bars, it would seem ludicrous to nail some poor slob on a minor traffic infraction. So that was an eye-opener. I don't say most cops aren't honest, but I do say that even one dishonest cop is such a disaster for the force that they'd be best advised to take him out and shoot him themselves. Sorry if this is a bit off-topic.

Police lie on the witness stand. A lot. Not all of them, but more than a few. I've also heard the term cited by another poster above, "testilying", the term the cops have coined for what many of them do. I think their theory is that the bad guys do it too (and they certainly do), so the cops have to lie as well, to make sure the bad guys go to jail.
12.17.2005 11:29pm
Interesting discussion, to a layman. Question: if one believes that perjury by the police is common, does that mean that when serving on a criminal jury, one ought to find it extremely hard to vote for conviction when the case turns on police testimony? Would the belief that perjury by such witnesses is common be enough to establish a reasonable doubt in one's mind? Would it be reasonable to think that one would be able to judge the veracity of a police witness by demeanor and so on, given that a practiced perjurer might be skillful at it?
12.18.2005 12:29am
Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
So once I was prosecuting a guy for running a fake document mill. His defense was that he wasn't running the mill, but had been hired to clean it. (No, really.) The story was lame, as it involved him coming to Los Angeles to meet a friend at a bar, not finding him, and then just wandering off and eventually getting the document-mill-cleaning job without trying to contact the friend he'd come to meet.

That particular hole in the story was becoming clear during the DFPD's direct of the defendant. Fishing, and obviously hoping to suggest an explanation to him, she asked, "Sir, did, maybe, you realize that you had forgotten your friend's number, or had left it at home in Mexico?"

The defendant replied, flatly and without hesitation, "No."

The judge quickly hid a smirk with her hand.

Afterwards I thanked the DFPD for illuminating the difference between subornation of perjury and attempted subornation of perjury.
12.18.2005 1:55am
Visitor Again:
Interesting discussion, to a layman. Question: if one believes that perjury by the police is common, does that mean that when serving on a criminal jury, one ought to find it extremely hard to vote for conviction when the case turns on police testimony? Would the belief that perjury by such witnesses is common be enough to establish a reasonable doubt in one's mind? Would it be reasonable to think that one would be able to judge the veracity of a police witness by demeanor and so on, given that a practiced perjurer might be skillful at it?

The problem with juries and police testimony is not the one you pose, but the opposite. Juries are usually predisposed to accerpting police officer testimony without question, to believe anything a police officer says on the stand. The notable exceptions are juries drawn from some inner-city areas, which are at least open to the proposition that the police may not always be truthful.

A juror should approach each witness's credibility without any preconceived notions. Credibility judgments are to be made on an individualized basis, not on the basis of some characteristic assumedly shared by those who have the same status or occupation as the witness.

So just appraise the police witness's credibility the way you would any other witness's credibility. That is what the court usually tells jurors in the jury instructions,and if jurors followed that instruction, most defense lawyers would be happy indeed.

That means not assuming they are telling the truth merely because they are police officers. It means not giving them a leg up in credibility simply because of their status or occupation.

Jurors aren't stupid (although the police often say they are when juries have refused to swallow police lies). If jurors make the effort to judge the credibility of a police officer's testimony rather than just accepting
it without question, they will be, in most cases, perfectly capable of determining when a police officer is lying.

There may be occasional witnesses so skilled at lying that they get away with it despite skilled cross-examination and close jury scrutiny. Some of these are criminal defendants, of course, although most of them aren't as skilled at it as police officers. But the skilled liar is one of the hazards of jury trials.

but there's not much you can do about it, is there?
12.18.2005 5:20am
Visitor Again:
More disgusting that police officers who lie are the judges who sit there and let them get away with it, accepting every lie as the truth. Everyone in the courtroom knows the officer is testilying, but it's business as usual and no one ever does aything about it. Everyone keeps a straight face, even when it's a howler, and on we go to the next lie.

A long time ago, when I was a young lawyer, I used to wonder how those judges could look at themselves in the mirror in the morning. Now I know they're inured to it; it truly is business as usual, no big deal, just part of the War on Crime and, in their view, a necessary one.

Once in a while, you get a maverick judge who dares to question the most glaring lies. Not often, since most of the judges appointed these days are prosecutors or former prosecutors. But such a judge doesn't last long anyway. He/she ends up on the law enforcement hit list and is soon gone if he/she doesn't learn the rules.

It's getting to the point where not even defense lawyers are allowed to argue against law enforcement credibility. At a pretrial hearing a few years ago, following the testimony of one law enforcement witness who had delivered a stream of lies so obvious they were laughable (in fact, some spectators had laughed), I told the judge in open court that not a word the witness had said was believable. The judge admonished me, saying he felt sorry for the witness, who was in the spectator section when I made the statement. I replied that I felt sorry for my client, who was victim of the lies.
12.18.2005 6:11am
Richard Nieporent (mail):
This has been a fascinating discussion. Given that the defendant and the police are prone to stretch the truth in the witness stand, what is the purpose of such testimony? Is the jury supposed to decide in favor of the most convincing liar or the most creative liar? Should they give extra points for style or for degree of difficulty? Maybe we should have a set of judges who hold up cards after each testimony with a point total like they do in figure skating. It would be even better if they use acerbic judges like the ones on American Idol who make disparaging comment on each person who testifies. It would certainly make trials more interesting and may even lead to better results.
12.18.2005 10:44am
Idealist (mail):
I'm a civil litigator, so my knowledge of false testimony by law enforcement is wholly anecdotal (and thus the criminal attorneys here should chime in). It is my understanding that defendants and law enforcement typically tell much different lies. Most law enforcement lies tend to be about meeting procedural or evidentiary rules (justifying searches, chain of custody, etc.). That is, the typical (but by no means the only) law enforcement lie is to shore up a case where the goal is to convict someone who the officer believes is guilty. Obviously, this does not make telling lies OK, but the motivation, while misguided, is rarely (as I have heard about it) malevolent or self-interested.
12.18.2005 11:52am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Visitor Again: The Captain's comment struck me as more rude, but I agree that JohnAnnArbor's second post ("bitter defense attorney") was pointlessly snarky, and his first post, while at least not a personal insult aimed at particular list members, was a nonsensical generalization. Unfortunately, the comments to this post have not been quite as good as I'd like them to be.

On the other hand, please don't think -- or help others think -- that just because someone is being rude, that's excuse for his adversaries to do the same. Also, please don't think that any attempt by me to help keep people in line will ever be entirely consistent. Sometimes I'll read some comments and others; sometimes I'll skim a bunch of posts, and won't notice a rudeness in one but will notice in another; sometimes I'll have a somewhat different reaction to the magnitude of the offense than you might.

If the standard for trying to keep discussion polite and substantive is perfect evenhandedness, you're never going to get it; and you're never going to get anything close unless you have a professional editor who can pay close attention to each comment. I figure that the best I can do is occasionally remark on those posts that I notice, and that strike me as the most egregious. (Naturally, if you want to politely chastise rude posters yourself, you may do so; just don't expect me to catch all the problems that you've found.)
12.18.2005 4:08pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Visitor Again's last post seems pretty close to the mark to me. I believe it was former San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara who said that 10% of cops are totally scrupulous, 10% were totally unscrupulous, and 80% fall somewhere in between.

That sort of "normal" distribution may be quite expected on, say, exam scores. But, in the halls of justice, it is quite alarming. That so many judges' attitudes run from complacency to endorsement is absolutely demoralizing.
12.18.2005 6:57pm
Mike Lief (www):
I'm a career prosecutor, and I've only had one trial wherein a defense attorney caught a cop in a lie; it was a drug possession case, and the crux of the matter was whether or not the cop had checked the back of his patrol car at the beginning of his shift for any trash. If he had, the bindle of meth found after he put the defendant in the back on an unrelated charge belonged to the suspect. If not, it may have been there at the beginning of his shift.

It's been a few years, so I may get the details wrong, but the officer claimed he'd folded a pamphlet up and tossed it under the seat; the defense attorney used great stage craft and sarcasm to demonstrate that the crumpled ball found in the car looked nothing like a folded brochure

I told the jury during closing arguments that if they believed the arresting officer had not told the truth, then they should vote "Not guilty." The defendant was acquitted.

It seemed to me that the cop couldn't remember what he'd done with the paper, and had simply guessed. Do I think he planted the bindle? Hell no. The experience confirmed for me that the lies told by cops are probably related to procedure and search and seizure.

Do I think police officers regularly lie? I prefer to think not. Most of the cases I prosecute don't depend on the testimony of a cop without tons of corroborating evidence. Further, my sense is that most cops wouldn't throw away a career to convict one "dirtbag."

I tell every witness I intend to call that the only thing I want -- the only thing I insist on -- is that they tell the truth. If I have reason to doubt my arresting officer, or the complaining witness, I've never hesitated to dismiss the case.

The most disturbing thing about the defense lawyer mentioned in Eugene's post is that there's any discussion at all as to whether or not he ought to be disbarred for life.
12.19.2005 2:00am
Greedy Trial Lawyer (mail) (www):
I spend hours each week preparing my injured clients for depositions in lawsuits. The loudest message I deliver to every client is that their testimony must be honest. The implication of Attorney Pratt's emailed client instruction that honesty is not necessary is unethical and, possibly, criminal. However, Pratt's comment about cops lying in criminal prosecutions is, sadly, true in too many cases. Nailing the bad guy or backing a fellow officer are often the motivation for untruthful reports and testimony.
12.19.2005 4:51am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):

If I have reason to doubt my arresting officer...

So, there have been others - you just caught them before the case went to trial.
12.19.2005 4:54am
Why do some judges tolerate cop perjury? Maybe because the FOP endorsement is extremely helpful the next time they stand for re-election. And the FOP doesn't give its endorsement to judges who hold cops to any sort of professional standard.

As to the defense attorney in this case, he deserves a conviction and a law license revocation.

Once, I submitted an affidavit that I later learned was false. I notified the court and withdrew the claim that the affidavit supported.

When looking at defense tactics, people need to know that defense attorneys aren't all-knowing. We rarely know what really happened. So we give our clients the benefit of the doubt. That said, if their story sounds fishy to me, I would advise them to take the Fifth because it will also sound fishey to the judge and jury. I leave the lying to the professionals with badges.

As to cops being dishonest, many are in small ways. For example, I have had prosecutors tell me that a law enforcement badge will get people out of tickets. It is an act of dishonesty (a small one, I admit, but an act of dishonesty nonetheless) to use your position as a law enforcer to break the law. It makes you wonder what other laws cops will break for their own personal convenience.
12.19.2005 9:36am
Houston Lawyer:
It's always interesting to watch a veteran litigator tap dance around the ethical rules. I remember watching a senior partner say to a client "now I can't tell you to ...". All I could do was smile.
12.19.2005 10:08am
Snacktime (mail):
One big problem in many criminal trials is that the policeman has no real recollection of the event at all. This is a person whose job it is to make traffic stops, arrest people, conduct searches etc. How likely is it that he remembers well the details of a particular search or traffic stop months later, when he may conduct dozens of these a day?

thus it seems to me the police's testimony is always somewhat fabricated. the officer's real recollection is based almost entirely on re-reading his own report months after the fact. yet he testifies as if he remembers well.
12.19.2005 1:34pm
Roach (mail) (www):
A few anecdotes of the ethics of the profession, some good, some bad.

Once, while representing an indigent defendant, lawyer makes clever argument that gets him in major hot water with judge, probation, etc. Most lawyers would not make argument that ambiguity in plea (that ran in client's favor) should be construed against the author of agreement, the government. Judge flips out and chews everyone out, threatneing sanctions. Most lawyers would miss opportunity to see potential to shave months of client's sentence. Goes to show, no good deed goes unpunished.

Two, many asbsetos depositions where plaintiff's lawyers coacht the hell out of witness. One time victim was counseled to say he used asbestos "virtually every day" and that there was so much dust it was "like show." But at some point in the depo he started getting the two reversed to hilarious effect.

Lawyer at big firm advised me to pretend to be someone else in calling a potential witness. I refused and sought advice from partners. He was admonished by leadership; he also made partner soon thereafter. Lying to anyone violates ethical code rules. Of course, we're allowed to outsource to undercover agents, private investigators, etc. Kind of a weird anomoly, that.

Lawyer said brother in hospital and he couldn't be ready for hearing. I'm sure he was lying, but I let it slide.

Told client to come clean about facts of embarassing criminal/pr disaster. Honsty allays most concerns by would-be plaintiffs.

Lawyers come in all varieties; most are pretty professional and pretty honest. I've scheduled and rescheduled numerous hearings, evidentiary disputes, etc. through good faith negotiations. Most practice areas do not present the same kinds of dilemmas as criminal law. Criminal law can be really hard, particularly if client wants to testify. It's very unnatural to have to turn your client in after he perjures himself.

There is, of course, nothing more corrosive than the widespread practice of "testilying," which too many cops do, mostly out of a sense of their own individual superiority to the system.
12.19.2005 1:45pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Is this case really that far removed from the asbestos cases where the law firm sent out an email to clients instructing them on what to say at deposition?
I believe Pratt will get what he deserves. The others, unfortunately, probably won't.

12.19.2005 2:53pm
I was in private civil practice before email. Whenever I had a client who I thought was going to lie in a deposition or in court, I wrote him a letter reminding him of what the true facts were, and cautioning him to not deviate from the truth.
12.19.2005 3:43pm