Should lawyers be allowed to participate in politics?

This idea came to me from reading Minty Green’s postings on gun control. It seems to me that lawyers as a whole are not concerned with right and wrong, but instead on advocating their particular position. Common sense never enters the equation. Instead endless hours are spent debating all the possible usages of a particular word “It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is…” . Would we be better off if instead we had “regular” people in politics instead of the preponderance of lawyers that we have now? Would we be able to use common language and common sense to write and interpret legislation?

It seems to me that you have taken a stereotype and applied it to a vast number of people in a ridiculous way.

I could address the fact that there is no Constitutional way we could excluse lawyers from the political process, etc. But considering the way you began the thread is so utterly ridiculous, I don’t think it’s worth the effort. Hell, it wasn’t even worth the time I spent typing THIS message.

IIRC there may be one or two states which do not permit lawyers to serve in the legislature. Anybody know which states they are? Maybe we can compare the effectiveness of their laws with other states.

It seems to me that you are wrong.

(if we get more lawyers to repsond in this manner, you will eventually see that lawyers are interested in right and wrong.)

Yes. Let’s make sure the people we elect to develop and enact sensible legislation have no expertise in legal terminology, no knowledge of legal precedence and no experience in the interpretation of poorly written legislation.

That’ll improve things.

Forgive me, but there is something ethically bizarre about laws so complex that only the people who write them can understand what they mean, and the people who are exptected to obey them cannot even interpret them properly.

I apologize to everyone for being the, uh, “inspiration” for this thread.

And Tex, when somebody asks a legal question, they’re gonna get a legal answer. Try to deal with that, 'kay?

Forgive me, but there is something ethically bizarre about language so complex that only the people who write medical books can understand what they mean, and the people who are expected to receive medical treatment cannot even interpret them properly.
IOW, legal jargon exists so that contractual terms -something that should be near and dear to your libertarian heart- can be explicitly and specifically stated in defined ways. Laws are phrased so as to protect their meaning rather than so as to obfuscate it. The fact that the profession which covers that need has evolved a specialized language should not be surprising to a philosopher.

December, I think you’re wrong on any states prohibiting lawyers from serving in the Legislature; such an act would be unconstitutional on its face. Anyone want to take the time and trouble to google out the qualifications for legislator in the 50 states to check this out?

Texican, while lawyers as a group are no more and no less venal than any other group of people, one of the things that nearly every non-lawyer seems to miss is that they are employed as advocates in adversarial cases. Their job, the one they train for, is to argue one side of an issue for pay.

And, to quote a writer on Constitutional law whom I utterly respect, the most significant cases to come before the Supreme Court in the last 70 years have been ones in which the right of the individual is at odds with what the community he is a part of conceives its public welfare to be, and hence passes legislation intended at promoting that public welfare. To feel one’s way through the quagmire of such a mass of conflicts requires adherence to basic principles, but nuanced in a way that blind devotion to the literalistic reading of one particular Constitutional phrase will not achieve.

I do not always agree with minty’s interpretation of the Law, but I’ve never seen him arguing a point without sound reason, and when he states the current state of the law on a given topic, to say that you disagree with what he says is not to disagree with him, but to raise your own ineffective objections to what those given authority to pronounce definitively have decided to say. I strenuously disagree with the majority opinion in a number of Supreme Court cases – but my opinion is not binding; theirs is. All we can do is advocate for change when we disagree.

No one who disagrees with me should be able to participate in politics…

Aren’t we just about ready to go to war with someone who runs his country that way?

This was my first thought, too. What, just because I hold a law license a state would see fit to prevent me from partaking in the political process? Sounds like a massive due process violation to me.

Lawyers are people, too. (Hard as that is for some folks to believe…)

Substantive or procedural? :wink:

Poly, when performing the tasks for which they are trained, I have no problem with lawyers taking one side in a case. However I must say that it does bother me on some level when technicalities are exploited in the case when a person is clearly guilty. If a guy kills someone, 50 people see him do it, there is a video tape of the event, but some piece of evidence is corrupted or the police made some mistake along the lines, should this person be set free? That is what their lawyer advocates. I don’t blame the lawyer in that case, mind you, he is doing what the legal system allows and to do otherwise would probably be a malpractice of law. However it makes the point that in focusing on one particular point the greater issue is missed. I don’t mean to pick on minty, but when I see him try to postulate that the writings of the 9th circuit are “the law” as applies to gun control, then that is what leads me to ask the question in the OP. He doesn’t state the whole unvarnished truth, only the part that agrees with his position and then presents it as if it is the utmost authority on the subject. In a perfect world, there would be another lawyer prepared to present all the facts that support the other side, but that is not always the case.
I guess what bugs me the most is that common sense is not a part of our legal and political system any longer.

I cannot be restrained from throwing out this old saw:

Lawyers were writing the Constitution while doctors were sticking leaches on George Washington’s ass.

I’m not sure this means anything in this debate or anyplace else but it is fun to say and makes as much sense as anything in Tex’s post, which is one more contribution to the line of thought expressed best as First, let’s kill all the lawyers.

We have all kinds of technicalities along the railroad tracks of prosecution. Most of these technicalities are found in The Constitution and state constitutions. It would be much easier to railroad defendants if only we could stamp out the technicalities.

It should bother you much more when there is a person who is clearly guilty but the government violated that person’s consitutional rights. It should offend you that your government didn’t follow the rules. It should offend you that the government forced a guilty person to go free. If you are angry at the defense lawyer, your anger is misplaced.

No state prohibits lawyers from holding elected office. Much of this thread is based on equally faulty assumptions about the legal system and lawyers’ roles in it.

When you exclude lawyers from public discourse, which is what this thread is essentially suggesting, what kind of society results? One that is willing to deprive innocent citizens of their right to a competent, professional legal defense when the state accuses them of a crime. One that is willing to deprive businesses of their right to a professional advocate when they deal with governmental regulators. One that is willing to deprive consumers of legal counsel regarding their rights when megacorporations take advantage of them, or injure them. One that is willing to deprive the poor, the have-nots, and the discriminated-against of a champion when they try claiming their rights to their fair share of due process, equal protection, and constitutional democracy.

Those rights are what you take away when you exclude lawyers from public discourse. The courtroom is not the only venue where those rights are challenged, and the legal profession and individual lawyers have consistently defended those rights, particularly in legislative proceedings. For example, take a look at the American Bar Association’s legislative agenda, available online at

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights establish a society based on the rule of law, the liberty of the individual, and equal access to justice–to each of which an independent legal profession is essential. A world without lawyers is a world without law, liberty, or justice. I don’t want to live in that kind of world.

Lawyers are not the source of the problems that lawyer-bashers complain about. Competition and human nature are the source of those problems, and you will change neither one by eliminating lawyers from the process. Indeed, you will let competition and human nature run amok, since lawyers and the legal system are the safeguards that civilization has imposed in order to channel them into the most constructive, orderly, and peaceful paths in addressing and solving the problems that competition and human nature inevitably cause. A world with no lawyers is a world without such safeguards.

If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, those who know a little Shakespeare are fond of quoting, “The first thing we do let’s kill all the lawyers.” Those who know their Shakespeare a little better know that that line is uttered by Dick the Butcher, to his fellow rebels who are conspiring against the lawful government and contemplating squashing the people’s liberties.

Cite, please. Successful insanity defenses don’t count.

And the Supreme Court, and the 1st Circuit, and the 4th Circuit, and the 6th Circuit, and the 7th Circuit, and the 8th Circuit, and the 11th Circuit. (But see the 5th Circuit). :rolleyes:

Look buddy, this isn’t the Pit, but you’re damned sure trying to turn it into the Pit. I never knowingly omit contrary law. Even in the thread you’re bitching about, I didn’t omit a damned thing from my explanation of the law, except for even more cases that establish the principle I was explaining. I am not aware of even a single case holding to he contrary. All Max did was come up with a handful of reasons why those 19th Century Supreme Court cases might not be followed if the issue came up to the Supreme Court today. In other words, he was arguing a position. This forum is called Great Debates, not Things Texican Agrees With.

You seem to be defining “common sense” as “the way things Texican would like them to be.” In which case, thank god for the death of common sense.

Xeno wrote:

I don’t think that’s a good analogy, Xeno. I be punished for bad medical treatment, but the doctors will. Now, if you wanted to put legislators in jail when their laws are broken, hey! That’s a great idea! :smiley:

The laws have to be complicate so that they are clear.

The constitution set out a good groundwork, but can’t contain every possible incarnation of facts that might come into play. The first amendment states that freedom of speech shall not be abridged. However, I haven’t seen even the strongest literalist argue that the government or courts can’t make perjury, or slander/libel against the law, nor sensitive information necessary for our country’s defense.

Additional laws need to be made, and they are long, so that it is clear what they mean. It may be extremely complicated, but most laws do state with good specificity exactly what is or isn’t allowed or prohibited by such law. If the government outlaws something, we all know that there will be people on both sides of the issue trying to ‘get around’ the wording of the law. Lawmakers should know this, and should write the laws with the idea of making them ironclad.

Lawyers (as a group) are better at anticipating legal challenges than other people. That’s not to say we are smarter, or necessarily better at anything, just that we have been trained to apply laws, which I think makes us well qualified to write laws.

The open ended “Don’t be a jerk” rule works well on the SDMB. But specific rules of what is allowed is not necessary here. I really enjoy posting and reading here, but, frankly, no skin off my nose if I were banned for no particular reason. I can go to another message board, or start my own. The SDMB has no power of compulsion over me. When the government gets involved, however, it can fine or imprison people who don’t obey the laws. Therefore, the laws have to be definite and specific regarding what is allowed or prohibited in a given case.

My point was about jargon, Lib, not penalty.