Sunday, March 1, 2015

Monroe H. Freedman, scholar of legal ethics and civil liberties, dies at 86 - The Washington Post

Monroe Freedman was the godfather of the study of legal ethics - a field that did not exist when I was in law school.  (Monroe and Watergate cured that.) 
A couple years ago he noted some comments of mine and suggested lunch but I neglected to follow up.  We corresponded and sometimes commented on Legal Ethics Forum.  He spurred me to write critically about Kenneth Feinberg's work on the BP oil spill; and we had similar views about the prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case - which we found prejudicial to the defense and, I thought, incompetent. -gwc
Monroe H. Freedman, scholar of legal ethics and civil liberties, dies at 86 - The Washington Post
by Matt Schudel

"Monroe H. Freedman, a law professor who was often credited with establishing the academic field of legal ethics, and whose controversial views once led a future chief justice to call for his disbarment, died Feb. 26 at his home in New York City. He was 86. The cause was chronic lymphocytic lymphoma, said a granddaughter, Rebeca Izquierdo Lodhi.
 Mr. Freedman became a nationally renowned expert on civil liberties while serving as a law professor at George Washington University from 1958 to 1973 and later at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. He became even better known for his contributions to the emerging field of ethics, in which he addressed the sometimes conflicting responsibilities of a lawyer toward clients and toward the court.
 “He was a towering figure in the legal academy and especially in legal ethics,” Georgetown University law professor Abbe Smith, who taught alongside Mr. Freedman and published books with him, said in an interview. “He was universally regarded as the founder of modern legal ethics as an academic field.” 

Mr. Freedman wrote textbooks on the subject, and his landmark 1966 article, “The Three Hardest Questions,” remains a mainstay of the study of legal ethics to this day. The article, which appeared in the Michigan Law Review, outlined three central obligations that every defense lawyer is bound to uphold: understanding all the facts of a case; preserving the confidentiality of a client; and being candid and forthcoming to the court. There are times, however, when these legal principles can be in conflict, producing what Mr. Freedman called a “trilemma.” The trust between a lawyer and client, he argued, is a fundamental cornerstone of the legal system and is essential to discovering the truth. But what is the lawyer’s responsibility if a client says he will not testify honestly on the witness stand? Which legal obligation is more important — confidentiality or candor? Mr. Freedman suggested that a defense lawyer’s primary duty is to be his client’s best advocate. The judicial system, after all, rests on the presumption that defendants are innocent unless the prosecution can prove otherwise. A defense attorney’s first responsibility, in other words, is to maintain the confidence of his client’s private discussions, not to declare the client guilty."

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