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This paper explores and serves as a reaction to the video entitled, “Drunk Vegas Lawyer Mistrial.” A brief summary of the video will be provided along with an analysis of the actions of a Nevada defense attorney in court. His actions will be examined as well as whether or not those actions modeled ethical behavior and fit moral, professional guidelines.
Week 3 Assignment: Personal & Professional Ethics
Ethics, or the debate of right versus wrong, is something is constantly debated and is subjective to personal viewpoints and particular circumstances. People also commonly have personal and professional ethics that sometimes coincide, conflict, or remain independent of one another. In some cases personal ethics can be influenced by professional ethics and vice versa. In the video entitled, “Drunk Vegas Lawyer Mistrial,” there are numerous violation of both personal and professional ethics that are seen.
In the above mentioned video which takes place on August 03, 2006, a Nevada criminal defense attorney appears to court late in the midst of a kidnapping trial. Once in court, the attorney advises the judge that he was late as a result of him being involved in a hit-and-run motor vehicle accident. After changing his story several times, speaking with the judge in chambers, and being caught in several lies, the judge finally orders that the attorney take a portable breath test to determine his blood alcohol concentration (BAC). After taking the test nearly two and a half hours after initially appearing in court, the attorney’s BAC is nearly a 0.08, indicating that he had a fair amount of alcohol present in his system (The Attorney Depot, 2012).
The first ethical issue in this situation is that the attorney shows up late to court because he is intoxicated. In the video, he can be heard slurring his speech and also sways and he is standing up speaking with the judge. I feel that is extremely unethical for the attorney to present himself to the court in such a manner. It is also extremely unfair to his client who was facing kidnapping charges and a possible life sentence. At one point, the attorney mentions that he had been practicing law for sixteen years and was ready to proceed with the trial. Due to his
intoxication, the attorney also creates a story about being involved in a hit-and-run accident where his vehicle was struck from behind, causing him to be late. The judge finds several gaps in his story which revealed that the attorney was not being truthful. The attorney’s overall behavior was unethical in my opinion. As a veteran attorney and officer of the court, he is someone that should realize that such behavior is not only unethical but in violation of judicial procedure. As stated in the course text there are certain principles that attorneys should follow as part of a lawyer/client relationship to include: “Treat clients/relationships in professional fashion, do not deliberately engage in deceptive behavior, avoid harming others, be loyal to the client, and make sound moral decisions.” Moreover, it is apparent that the attorney in this video is not following these moral guidelines and is not taking his client into consideration (Braswell, McCarthy, & McCarthy, 2015).
Aside from the obvious unethical behavior of the attorney, a second possible ethical issue I found in the video was the judge’s interrogation of the attorney for nearly two hours in open court. I am not entirely familiar with courtroom proceedings. However, this seemed like a conversation that would have been more appropriate to have in chambers. The prosecution, sheriff’s officers, court workers, and others are present during the dialogue between the judge and the attorney which clearly “incriminates” him in coming to court intoxicated and lying. The judge states at one point that it is not her intent to destroy the attorney’s reputation. However, in my opinion, his reputation is already destroyed having all those people present. The judge also orders the attorney to be seen by the courthouse nurse who advises that he (the attorney) needs to be seen by a doctor. After being made aware of this, the judge continues to question the attorney after being told he is need of medical attention. It seems that this not only unethical but most
likely in violation of court procedure. Lastly, the judge revealing what the attorney had stated in closed chambers to an open court seemed unethical to me. The purpose of speaking in closed chambers is to not have the discussion disclosed in open court. However, it is still important to remember that the attorney’s actions caused the situation and he is ultimately responsible for the outcome and any consequences (The Attorney Depot, 2012).
In conclusion, the video, “Drunk Vegas Lawyer Mistrial,” details first-hand the unfortunate, unethical behavior of a Nevada defense attorney in court. The attorney’s behavior serves as a reminder that all professions have moral guidelines that should be followed and that other people can also be affected by poor judgment. There were certain issues noticed on both the part of the attorney and the judge during the video. However, it was the attorney’s actions and unethical behavior that ultimately caused the entire situation; and he should be held accountable for his behavior. I could not imagine engaging in the behavior that this attorney did regardless of my profession. By doing so, he ruined his reputation, credibility, and career. I found this to violate both my own personal and professional code of ethics.
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