Remarks to Honor LegalWorks Apostolate

Interim President of Human Life International Speaks at First Anniversary Celebration

By Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carambula

These remarks were delivered by Monsignor Barreiro on the Solemnity of the Annunciation before the attorneys, staff, families, and friends of the apostolate on its one-year anniversary.

The Morality of the Legal Profession

In the occasion of the first anniversary of Legal Works Apostolate I have been asked by Edward Scott Lloyd to present some brief reflections on the morality of the legal profession.

All Catholic have to live coherently in accordance with the Law of the Lord. A law that is inscribed by our Creator in the nature He has given us and that is revealed to us by the Church.

At the same time in each professional calling the Lord gives to us we have a specialization or specification of these general moral teachings that apply to all of us.

So we can speak of medical morality or a business morality.

A Catholic should follow strictly what is established in Canon 32 of the Canons of Professional Ethics which was approved by the American Bar Association in 1908. Canon 32 states that the lawyer, "advances the honor of his profession and the best interest of his client when he renders service or gives advice tending to impress upon the client and his undertaking exact compliance with the strictest principles of moral law?"

Speaking of the legal profession we should analyze some particular aspects of the moral norms that apply to this profession.

The starting point is the social value of the legal profession, because we can hear in more than one utopian writer that speaks that in a perfect society the legal profession should be abolished. All societies require a law that would regulate how it functions as they require a government. St. Thomas Aquinas insisted in more than one occasion that even a society without original sin would have required a government and we also state as a consequence that a society without original sin would require a body of laws. As consequence society needs specialists on the law. These specialists accomplish primarily a function of making the law known to all the members of society, translating its complex term in ways that the laymen might understand them. They fulfill the function that was accomplished by the laws of the twelve tables in ancient Rome. Those laws made public all the laws that regulated society in the early years of the Romans republic. So after the promulgation of those laws, the legal code that regulated the republic was known by all and not only by a small group of patricians. We also have to remember that the Roman origin of the word Jurisprudence which means to say the law. To establish the law that would regulate a particular human situation that having become conflictive is brought to the attention of the judges or magistrates.

So the primary and particular duty of the attorney is to know the law well, in particular in the area of his specialization. When I speak of knowledge of the law I am referring to the whole conglomerate of Federal Laws, State laws and all the necessary administrative regulations that apply to his area of specialization. Second he should know the socio-economic situations to which this law is applied.

All moral persons are concerned with the honest search for the truth, but the legal professional has to be particularly concerned with this search both in their extra judicial activities and in court.

In this legal search for the truth it is fundamental that always moral means should be used to arrive to the truth. I remember how a highly respected professor of procedural law insisted that the main function of a trial was to establish legal truth and how this truth should correspond to the real truth.

Principle of moderation. In this search for the legal truth the attorney has to follow a principle of moderation. Already the Romans considered how the strict application of the law could lead to injustice.

For that reason in a trial we have to search for the application of the law with the moderation that is necessary to arrive to true justice in each particular case. This applies to all legal cases both civil and criminal. At civil level we have the problem caused by asking an excessive amount of compensatory damages. At the civil level I am also aware of the realistic problem that in many cases we demand one hundred to obtain fifty.

With regards to moderation in criminal cases I can recount an experience that I had when I was a very young legal assistant in Montevideo. In Montevideo most of the law students work for a time as legal assistants before they are admitted to the practice of law. My law office had a client that got himself in a car accident. After the accident he had a violent discussion with the other driver and he severely injured him with the iron bar of his car jack. After this episode I went to see the assistant public prosecutor that had this case to negotiate the release of this person. I pleaded with her, presenting her the different circumstances of the case that would reduce the responsibility of my client. I finished my plea insisting that my client, due to the circumstances of the case and that he had never been indicted before, truly merited a defense. This old lady smiled and replied to me, "Young man, all criminals have a right to be defended, because all criminals have a right that all the circumstances that would decrease their responsibility should be presented to the judge." The outcome of the case was that I obtained the release of my client after a month in jail.

Morality and the Law. In secular societies the attorney has to be very much aware that regrettably there is a separation between positive law and morality. That in many cases positive law does not enshrine moral principles. As a consequence, he should abstain from enforcing or obtaining the enforcement of immoral laws.

These brief considerations obviously could be amplified, which I would be glad to do in a future occasion.

Thank you very much.

LegalWorks Apostolate thanks Monsignor Barreiro for his insights and for his stewardship of and great service to Human Life International, whose headquarters building our law practice resides, giving our attorneys and staff convenient on-site daily access to the sacraments.

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