LEGAL ETHICS VERSUS POLITICAL PRACTICES: THE APPLICATION OF THE RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT TO LAWYER-POLITICIANS
Keywords: Professional Responsibility, Ethics, Lawyer-politicians, law societies
AbstractCanadian legal ethics has paid little attention to how the rules of professional conduct for lawyers apply to lawyer-politicians – that is, politicians who happen to be lawyers. This article addresses this issue with reference to what Canadian case law and commentary do exist, supplemented by more plentiful American materials. It proposes a distinction between conduct that is politically expedient and conduct in which lawyer-politicians’ duties as lawyers come into apparent conflict with their duties of office. Canadian case law reveals three conflicting approaches to this latter category: that the duties of a lawyer prevail, that the duties of a politician prevail, and that the two sets of duties must be balanced in the circumstances. The article then considers the legal barriers and policy considerations that may limit law societies’ discipline of lawyer-politicians. It ends by considering potential approaches and solutions, concluding that law societies should regulate lawyer-politicians’ conduct but should balance the professional obligations of those lawyers against their responsibilities as holders of public office. It also emphasizes that lawyer-politicians who do not want to be held to this standard should surrender their law licenses.
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