In a recent letter to the editor of the Roundup, the writer suggested that the legal system could be substantially improved if the law provided that any attorney who knowingly defends a guilty client as innocent will be subject to the same penalty, as if he had committed the crime. The legal system has problems, but so does every system that uses people.
This suggested change would result in a much greater degree of inefficiency and injustice than we now have. First, the proposed change is unnecessary, because rules of professional conduct prohibit attorneys from making false statements of material fact or law before the court.
Punishment for violation of such rules can result in suspension or disbarment of the offending attorney.
Secondly, what lawyer will risk death or imprisonment in order to continue practicing criminal law? Nationwide, the number of people freed from prison because [they were] wrongfully convicted is huge.
Recently, many have obtained their freedom from prison because DNA evidence indicated they could not have committed the crime for which they were convicted.
In order to adopt the proposed change, the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution would have to be repealed. Thus, we would lose the important protections that those provisions give us.
Without the sovereign immunity defense, governments face a much greater risk of having to defend against more false imprisonment suits. Such suits could result in multimillion dollar judgments and increased taxes.
The insufficient benefits of such an unlikely change are far outweighed by the new problems created. These include the ultimately huge cost of not having competent criminal defense counsel, resulting in increased expenses for new prisons for the wrongfully convicted, increased injustice with the resulting damage to wives and children and the loss of the huge protections afforded to us by repealed constitutional provisions.
Jim Winter, Payson