11, March 2004
An ethical responsibility of professionals is to be true to what they believe and know is right. The character of the professional must be one of high caliber. Within the context of the law, the character of the lawyer must belong within the category of a strongly differentiated ethical role.
This category requires that there be elevated moral considerations, or morals that are at a higher level than normal. Professionals make decisions that affect peoples live more directly than do non-professionals. This is the reason that their character must be of high quality. Douglas Schafer needs a lesson in strong role differentiation.
Schafer was recently in the news, confronted by quite an ethical dilemma in his practice as a lawyer. He exposed a judge’s misconduct, and in the process, told information about his client that he was supposed to keep secret, under client-attorney confidentiality laws.
His character clearly shows dishonesty. That he chose to keep it a secret until the judge sanctioned him, for whatever reason, speaks volumes about his character.
Character is a perplexing word to define. Your character says a lot about you. Often character, virtue and integrity are words used interchangeably. So are the words ethics and morals. Ethics are morals, just taken to a higher level. Strongly differentiated roles take ethics to an even higher level. A person’s character is often described as etched in stone, because it generally does not change much. It is who you are. I feel that Schafer’s character is a bit shady. I know why he did not come forward when he first knew the judge was taking bribes from his client. Lawyers have an obligation to honor client-attorney confidentiality. It would have seemed more virtuous if he had come forward when he first knew. On the other hand, it was quite a moral obligation to turn in ...