The Giuliani ruling

Letter to the Editor, The Washington Post – 7/7/2021

Regarding the June 29 Tuesday Opinion column by Bruce A. Green and Rebecca Roiphe, “You can suspend Giuliani’s law license, but not his First Amendment rights”:

I’m an unhesitating advocate of lawyer honesty, for the good of our profession, and I read with astonishment this patently incorrect passage: “It is unlikely that . . . when these attorneys are caught in lies, the public sees it as a reflection on the entire legal profession.”

Any dishonesty by lawyers fuels the false narrative that all lawyers are dishonest, willing to do anything to gain an advantage for themselves or their clients. The professors’ later assertion that “lawyers have the right as private citizens . . . to lie about the government” is one of the most irresponsible things I’ve ever heard from anyone with a law degree. Any such lie damages the fabric of our constitutional democratic republic, because faith in the legal system is essential to the functioning of our society. The courts exist as a nonviolent alternative for the resolution of disputes.

Finally, though I agree that John Q. Citizen has a First Amendment right to lie — see the recent Supreme Court decision over the Stolen Valor Act — nonlawyers don’t take an oath of office and subject themselves to disciplinary regulation by the state bar. In Virginia, where I practice, the oath includes an undertaking to conduct ourselves “faithfully, honestly, professionally and courteously” in our practices. A lawyer should expect it to be enforced against him if necessary.

Steve Emmert, Virginia Beach