Should We Protect The Guilty?
Attorney-client privilege is one of the
most sacred rules of the American court system today.
The idea that you can say anything you want to your
attorney - and he or she will never have to reveal your words - is
one of the principles upon which the court system is founded.
But does attorney-client privilege uphold
the two goals of the justice system, namely to convict
the guilty and protect the innocent? In truth, it does
not, and this practice should be abolished in order to ensure
the American court system delivers true justice.
Critics of this idea have some really good points working in their
favor. They suggest that people can be convicted if they
don't have access to legal advice. Defendants may not
seek that legal advice if they think that speaking to an
attorney will get them in trouble. As a result, claim
the critics, it is necessary to guarantee that their
discussions with attorneys are privileged, so they can seek
the help they need, and get as much justice from our system as any
They also believe that in order to get the
justice they require from the system, an accused person must be able to
hand all of the facts of the case over to his/her
attorney, even if there are self-incriminating facts
involved. By making sure that the discussions are
private, a proper trial can proceed.
Critics claim that clients both want and
need confidentiality for a variety of reasons, not just
guilt of a crime, and taking that right away might make
them liable for civil damages they wouldn't otherwise
have to face. They take the argument one step further by suggesting
that fear of the court system by attorneys would only damage
the judicial system by increasing a lack of compliance
with judicial orders.
These arguments have some real flaws. The
simple truth is that justice relies on the fact that
guilty people will be punished and innocent people will
go free. Attorney-client privilege promises that neither
of these things is going to happen. The courts can't have access
to important documents or other information that shows someone
has committed a crime or that demonstrates evidence
that someone else is innocent.
People don't seek legal advice because it
is confidential. Lots of people confide in non-legal
parties (like friends and relatives), knowing that these
people may have to eventually testify against them. Moreover,
whether we have attorney-client privilege or not, people withhold
information from their lawyers, hoping to save their
reputations. Laws were designed to protect the innocent,
unfortunately this law more often than not protects the
There are hundreds of situations where
civil interests should be protected before a client's
interests, and the courts should make that decision
accordingly. If an innocent person is going to jail because of
attorney-client privilege or knowledge of a crime is
being covered up - a financial crime that will be
devastating to thousands, for example - an attorney has an
ethical obligation to report that. Yet the attorney-client privilege
stands in the way of his/her doing so.
Keeping attorney-client privilege in our
system only allows the guilty, the rich, and the
powerful to dominate our society, despite what any
critics may say.
Our justice system was founded on
protecting the rights of the innocent, and that simply
cannot happen with archaic rules like attorney-client
That's it! So what do you think? Are you for or against
the argument of policy in this pro con speech?