Academic journal article St. John's Law Review

The Third National Conference of the Association of the Religiously Affiliated Law Schools: Panelists' and Deans' Roundtable Discussion

Academic journal article St. John's Law Review

The Third National Conference of the Association of the Religiously Affiliated Law Schools: Panelists' and Deans' Roundtable Discussion

Article excerpt

July 10, 2000

St. John's University School of Law Jamaica, New York


Reverend John J. Coughlin, O.F.M. St. John's University School of Law

Dean Howard Eisenberg, ARALS President, Marquette University Law School

REVEREND COUGHLIN: Now what we'd like to do is to simply open up the floor for questions or comments, without further ado. They can be comments in general or directed to any of the panel participants or any of the Deans, for that matter.

PROFESSOR MARGULIES: I have a question for Ken Sprang. I guess we had sort of a friendly discussion about this outside. I'm Peter Margulies. At one point, Ken talked about how a lawyer who comes from a tradition of faith can't crossexamine a witness who the lawyer knows to be telling the truth. It's his responsibility and it's one of the hypos I extend to my students. On the one hand, there's a lot of compelling tradition behind the idea that lawyers should refrain from that kind of impeachment. On the other hand, we do also have a tradition that people who are accused need to have a zealous defense. People accused who are subject to the power of the State are among the least of those, and in that sense ought to be people, perhaps, who have the most protection. How would you reconcile those two commitments?

PROFESSOR SPRANG: I guess my sense is that in the tradition of zealous defense, there are ways to do that and it's not the question of truth. I'm troubled by the system. If you want to study justice, go to divinity school. Truth is what the jury or judge says it is. That troubles me. It seems to me that as a Catholic Christian, I can't compromise what I know to be true. If I know that the witness is right, then obviously you have to change the system because I recognize that under the Code of Professional Responsibility, I unequivocally have the right, and maybe the obligation, to discredit the witness. There are absolute truths, and I'd like to think that people of faith are looking for the truth, however that plays out, as idealistic as I can see that it is.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I am Ray Franklin, Law Secretary with a Supreme Court Judge in the Criminal Division. I think maybe one of the things that has to be changed is the emphasis in Professional Responsibility, when we often hear about how you represent the client at any cost, that being the popular conception. That's often what you hear at law school. I had the privilege of having both Professor Gregory and the Honorable Ed Re as professors and one of the things that Ed Re used to say was you have to always remember-and this is something that has to be emphasized-you are an Officer of the Court. I think that, within the Professional Canon, you have to find that middle ground when you have a client that's going up there to the stand and he's lying to the court, and to the judge, and you're examining him, and you know it. You have certain obligations as well, but I think there has been too much of an emphasis that you defend your client at all costs, you go up against the system. Basically, as a Law Secretary, you're adjudicating. You watch. Unfortunately, it is the case. One of the speakers made reference to winning or losing, the ego against the system. We've seen it with a couple of celebrated cases. Going back to the original point, I think there has to be a balance, with greater emphasis on telling attorneys that, in addition to representing their clients, they are also Officers of the Court.

DEAN BAHLS: My name is Steve Bahls. I'm Dean at Capital University Law School. I have a question, [Professor] Frank [Ravitch], for you. I enjoyed your presentation where you talked about the importance of law faculty and others considering the mission of the law school. My question to you would be: To what extent should that dialogue include students? Should students be asked to think about what it means to be a student at a religiously affiliated school, particularly if that religious affiliation is different from theirs? …

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