When Lawyers Become Politicians

Today’s Halifax Chronicle Herald reports that the current mayor of Cape Breton municipality, John Morgan, is about to face a disciplinary hearing by the Nova Scotia Barristers Society for professional misconduct. He’s not accused of bad lawyering (he hasn’t been practicing since becoming mayor in 2000), but of being discourteous to the bench in media interviews in connection with a particularly contentious lawsuit brought by the municipality against the province for a greater share of equilization funds. From the Herald article:

“Specifically, the charges allege that the member failed in his duty to encourage public respect for justice and to uphold and try to improve the administration of justice,” the society said on its website.

In addition, the society said the mayor “failed to discharge his duty, as a lawyer who holds public office, to adhere to the standards of conduct as high as those which the handbook requires of a lawyer.”

He’s also accused of failing to “treat the court with courtesy and respect” and failing “to uphold and encourage public respect for justice and the administration of justice.”

This should be an interesting case, considering how many lawyers go into public office and how extreme political discourse has become. Untimately, to what extent should the rules of professional conduct apply to limit political speech? And should lawyer/politicians be the only ones held to standards of conduct? (I would think that may put them at a political disadvantage, but make them better politicians.)

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