That message was apparently lost on Arizona attorney David DeCosta who was arrested today for providing heroin and other narcotics to a prisoner.
At the risk of stating the obvious, licensed attorneys are to maintain the integrity of the profession. The Model Rules of Professional Conduct, as promulgated by the American Bar Association, governs potentially ethic-entangling matters. Rule 8.4, covering misconduct, provides:
It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:
(b) commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects;
True, DeCosta does not represent the majority of attorneys; and in almost every jurisdiction a “DeCosta” probably exists. Clearly, licensing does not confer moral uprightness.
But in the broader sense, DeCosta’s arrest illustrates that lawyers are indeed held to a higher standard than non-lawyers. The thought – rightly or otherwise – is that lawyers, like doctors or public officials, represent the blue ribbon of professional integrity. Lawyers especially are accountable for actions involving moral turpitude such as fraud and dishonesty. When a breach occurs, scandalous headlines emerge.
In sum, while DeCosta’s actions are disheartening, they are not representative of the title or position of legal advocates.
Note: Photo from Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office