« PreviousContinue »
CODE OF ETHICS.
ADOPTED MAY 8, 1907.
The purity and efficiency of judicial administration which under our system is largely governmental itself, depend as much upon the character, conduct, and demeanor of attorneys in this great trust, as upon fidelity and learning of courts, or the honesty, and intelligence of juries.
“There is perhaps no profession after that of the sacred ministry, in which a high-toned morality is more imperatively necessary than that of the law. There is certainly without any exception, no profession in which so many temptations beset the path to swerve from lines of strict entegrity; in which so many delicate and difficult questions of duty are constantly arising. There are pitfalls and mantraps at every step, and the mere youth, at the very outset of his career, needs often the prudence and self-denial, as well as moral courage, which belongs commonly to riper years. High moral principle is the only safe guide; the only torch to light his way amidst darkness and obstruction.”-Sharswood.
A comprehensive summary of the duties specifically enjoined by law upon attorneys, is found in Section 216 of the Mississippi Code of 1906.
These duties are:
“First--To support the Constitution and laws of this State and the United States.
"Second—To maintain the respect due courts of justice and judicial officers.
“Third—To employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to them, such means only as are consistent with truth, and never seek to mislead by any artifice or false statement of the law.
"Fourth-To maintain inviolate the confidence, and at every peril to themselves, to presere the secrets of their clients.
"Fifth-To abstain from all offensive personalities, and to advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or a witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which they are charged.
“Sixth—To encourage neither the commencement nor continuance of an action or proceeding from any motive of passion or personal interest.
"Seventh-Never to reject, for any consideration personal to themselves, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed.”
No rule will determine an attorney's duty in the varying phases of every case. What is right and proper must, in the absence of statutory rules and an authoritative code, be ascertained in view of the peculiar facts, in the light of conscience, and the conduct of honorable and distinguished attorneys in similar cases, and by analogy to the duties enjoined by statute.
The following general rules are adopted by the Mississippi State Bar Association for the guidance of its members.
Duties of Attorneys to Court and Judicial Officers.
1. The respect enjoined by law for courts and judicial officers is exacted for the sake of the office, and not for the individual who administers it. Bad opinion of the incumbent, however well founded, cannot excuse the withholding of the respect due the office, while administering its functions.
2. The proprieties of the judicial station, in a great measure, disable the judge from defending himself against strictures upon his official conduct. For this reason and because such criticisms tend to impair public confidence in the administration of justice attorneys should as a rule, refrain from published criticism of judicial conduct, especially in reference to causes in which they have been of counsel, otherwise than in courts of review, or when the conduct of a judge is necessarily involved in determining his removal from or continuance in office.
3. Marked attention and unusual hospitality to a judge, when the relation of the parties are such that they would not otherwise be extended, subject both judge and attorneys to misconstructions, and should be sedulously avoided. A selfrespecting independence in the discharge of the attorney's duties which at the same time does not withhold the courtesy and respect due the judges station, is the only just foundation for cordial personal and official relations between bench and bar. All attempts by means beyond these to gain special personal consideration and favor of a judge are disreputable.
4. Courts and judicial officers, in the rightful exercise of their functions should always receive the support and countenance of attorneys against unjust criticism and popular clamor; and it is an attorney's duty to give them his moral support in all proper ways, and particularly by setting a good example in his own person of obedience to law.
5. The utmost candor and fairness should characterize the dealings of attorneys with the courts and with each other. Knowingly citing as authority an overruled case, or treating a repealed statute as in existence—knowingly misquoting the language of a decision or text-book-knowingly misquoting the contents of a paper, the testimony of a witness, or the language or argument of opposite counsel-offering evidence which it is known the court must reject as illegal, to get it before the jury, under the guise of arguing its admissibility—and all kindred practices-are deceits and evasions unworthy of attorneys.
Purposely concealing or withholding in the opening argument, positions intended finally to be relied on, in order that opposite counsel may not discuss them, is unprofessional. Courts and juries look with disfavor on such practices, and are quick to suspect the weakness of the cause which has need to resort to them.
In the argument of demurrers, admission of evidence, and other questions of law, counsel should refrain from "side-bar" remarks and sparring discourse to influence the jury or bystanders. Personal colloquies between counsel tend to delay, and promote unseemly wrangling, and ought to be discouraged.
6. Attorneys owe to the courts and the public whose business the courts transact, as well as their own clients, to be punctual in attendance on their causes; and whenever an attorney is late he should apologise and explain his absence.
7. One side must always lose the cause; and it is not wise, or respectful to the court, for attorneys to display temper because of an adverse ruling.
Duties of Attorneys to Each Other, to Clients and
8. An attorney should strive at all times, to uphold the honor, maintain the dignity, and promote the usefulness of the profession; for it is so interwoven with the administration of justice that whatever redounds to the good of one advances the other; and the attorney thus discharges, not merely the