Question: Why don’t lawyers get punished for lying in court?
Answer: First, lawyers in general have a well-deserved reputation for being untrustworthy and devious. Still, not all lawyers lie. There really are some honest lawyers of good character (thank God).
Second, know that for all the things wrong with lawyers, judges, and the legal system in general (and there are too many of such things), there is no secret policy hidden from the public that all lawyers can always lie in court proceedings with impunity. There are judges who value truth, accuracy, and honesty.
Third, lawyers occasionally are punished for lying, though I concede that it’s all too rare. Because it’s rare those lawyers who would be inclined to lie to gain advantage are emboldened to keep lying.
Fourth, what follows are in my opinion (and in no particular order) some of the the reasons lawyers are rarely punished for lying in court proceedings. Clearly, not every reason applies for every lie that goes unpunished. Some reasons that lawyers get away with lying are legitimate (see reason #1). Some reasons are flaws in some (not all) judges.
- The judge doesn’t know the lawyer lied or can’t conclude with certainty that the lawyer lied. Presumed innocent until proven guilty. This is as it should be.
- The judge concludes that he/she sees through the lie and so the lie has no impact on an accurate and correct judgment.
- The judge doesn’t feel the lie justifies the time and effort that imposing punishment would require.
- The judge feels (don’t ask me how he or she can do so rationally and in good faith) that allowing the lawyer to get away with lying “serves the greater good.”
- The judge is biased in favor of the lying lawyer and/or lawyer’s client.
- The judge accepts the lie because by doing so it allows the judge to find the lie to be a “fact” upon which the judge can issue the ruling the judge desires to make.
- The judge doesn’t care about being lied to.
- The judge feels it would be hypocritical to punish a lawyer for lying because the judge himself or herself engaged in the same kind of lying behavior as a lawyer before the judge was appointed to the bench.
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