It is the conduct of lawyers and judges that upholds the Integrity of the Judiciary

Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake

By Shenali Waduge

An institute to be held in esteem must function and follow the principles of ethics and the fundamentals of integrity of their profession. Members of the Judiciary, the Legislature or even the Executive to be regarded as icons of integrity must function with integrity, ethics and high moral standards. When they do not – there is conflict and when they cross each other’s turfs it aggravates the conflict. No institute becomes doyens of Integrity by default – it is the lawyers and judges that make a Judiciary “Independent”, it is the Parliamentarians who must function as “servants” of the people who voted them (not the reverse) and it is the Executive that must ensure he/she leads by example! Anyone violating such codes has no moral grounds to be pointing fingers. That doesn’t leave many standing does it and breaking coconuts is unlikely to solve matters either!

The Chief Justice now under the microscope herself had declared she is worried about the conduct of “some” lawyers while the Bar Association President Mr. Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa agreed that there was a sharp decline in the quality of the legal profession. If there is deterioration in the legal profession it is no one but the members of the judiciary who must take the blame.

So long as lawyers function in questionable ways it is unlikely that the public will even respect lawyers or judges. If their shortcomings have been as a result of being trapped by outside forces – the simple answer is, the guilty are those who throw the bait and those who take the bait.

The misdeeds are many – lawyers have been found guilty of exploiting the innocence of their clients, lawyers have sought sexual favors from those unable to make lawyer payments, it is nothing different to what Minister Maithripala says of the sex maniacs in the Health Ministry, the deals struck between lawyers representing defendant and accuser to prolong cases is nothing new either, lawyers have been found to divulge classified client information thereby breaking the client confidentiality code and the list is no short one.

It is the judicial duty to “do justice according to law”. One finds it hard to understand how a lawyer can defend a known murderer, a rapist, a child killer and argue his case on the strength of the payment to allow such an offender to walk free citing technicalities! It may prove the arguing ability of the lawyer but it does little to uphold justice for those who are dead or raped! No lawyer should take a case based on the payments, the promotion, recognition associated with the case or even political affiliations.

All decisions must have a combination of moral cum legal principles. Lawyers become lawyers because they have a strong inclination to ensure justice, rights, legal systems and the codes of law prevails. They do not become lawyers only to gain fame and prestige and use that to charge exorbitant client fees using the strength of their ability to use the law to even secure the release of people best locked up and safe from society.

Legislators on the other hand are those voted in by the people. If people vote for politicians who are unsuitable to function as servants of the people – there is an adage that says the people get the government they deserve. People – the voters must be aware of who they are voting or refrain from voting altogether. If people vote a rogue into parliament he is only carrying out his mandate – afterall people voted for him! Until such time people intelligently vote their representatives, parliament is likely to continue its colorful record of malpractices and there is nothing to be really surprised or groan about either.

However, with the judiciary it is very different. They have all the powers before them to commit zero-crimes in terms of zero-legal malpractices. The argument is that for any authority to be declared as INDEPENDENT it must first ensure that all those belonging to that authority function with independence. When they don’t and misadventures come to light it is unfair to blame only one party – afterall it takes two to tango.

That’s not to say there are no excellent lawyers who uphold every word of justice and are people highly respected in society.

A code of conduct for lawyers and judges is much in need!

However, 98% of lawyers give the other 2% of lawyers a bad name – the lawyers can decide which category they belong to!