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Should Lawyers Be Ethically Obligated to Protect the Environment?


Should Lawyers Be Ethically Obligated to Protect the Environment?

Brian Bienkowski

Contrary to many corny jokes, lawyers do follow a code of ethics. But there’s a glaring omission in the professions’ ethical outline: the environment.

The American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct is a suggested blueprint for state bars, laying out a boilerplate for client-lawyer relationships, public service, communication and other matters of the professions. “It talks about other legal obligations for third parties, but never talks about the environment,” said Tom Lininger, a professor at the University of Oregon School of Law.


At the very least, the Fourteenth Amendment should include Mother Earth as a person with rights!


Lawyers are constrained by law to not participate in crimes themselves. They may defend a client who commits crimes and even advise one about to if it is not specifically expressed as to a how to however lawyers cannot knowingly help a client to harm someone. A lawyer cannot help a client secretly add a hazardous substance like lead or mercury to something in contravention of laws.

Helping a client harm the environment is like the difference that exists between murdering one person and genocide. Both are murder but the difference is in quantity. If you cause harm that is measurable and proven then lawyers should be liable for their role if they actively helped it happening. Knowing that cigarettes were harmful left corporations open to lawsuits later but people died already. Maybe if lawyers were more conscious of their culpability and aware that it would entail penalties... We would have less to worry about in the past but far less to worry about in the future.


Despite ethical codes and laws, lawyers all watched Hogan's Heroes and learned the "I see nothing" mantra from Sergeant Schultz.


A new global Green Ethos... this may well be the seed that promises its not too eventual fruition.