Monthly archive

March 2012

Ethics and the Law: Will the Horse Snicker?


A few weeks ago, I was forced to temporarily surrender control of my faculties under the lull of general anesthesia for back surgery. Sitting in a hospital reception room and getting pre-admitted for surgery is like a defendant being debriefed on a federal case. What about your family history? What has happened to you before? Do you know where you are now? What medicines do you currently take?

Routine questioning becomes more serious. Do you have a living will? Who is your emergency contact? Do you have a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) form? Of course, once the nurse got to that question, I POLITELY told her that, “I am NOT AFRAID TO DIE. I just do not want to be there when it happens, and I am not answering any more questions. I walked INTO this Hospital and I will be walking OUT!” She looked shocked and for a few minutes said nothing. As she looked like she would continue, I looked her in the eye and she said, “That’s all the questions I have, and good luck on your surgery.” Thanks to my Creator and good doctors, all went well. Medical procedures, hospitals, and the like force us to consider our mortality, evaluate how we have spent our time, and face cold hard facts.

Every month, what do most of us do when the Bar Journal comes in? We flip to the back to see who died and who got into trouble. There is always someone we know who has either gone away or has had disciplinary problems. This is life in the legal world, and it is far from perfect. That is the reason TCDLA started the hotline for its members. We cannot keep the Grim Reaper away, but we hope we can help lawyers stay out of trouble. We have survived the year end, and the extra stresses that the holidays bring. The Ethics Committee is made up of lawyers who want to help. Keep the calls coming. We are always available to our members to answer questions, and it is very important to each committee member that we give the correct advice. Reach out for help if you need it. Co-chair Ray Fuchs commented at our weekly conference, “We are not always right, but we are never wrong.” And co-chair David Sheppard’s mantra is “it is not that we are vain or egotistical—it’s just that we have nothing to be modest about.” Where there is no counsel, the people perish, but in the multitude of counselors, there is safety.

Lend a colleague a hand and if warranted, use these important numbers for referral:

TLAP—Texas Lawyers Assistance Program: 800-343-8527
AA—Alcoholics Anonymous & Narcotics Anonymous: 800-262-4944

In the Harris County Criminal Justice Center there is a plaque on the seventh floor displaying the names of criminal lawyers who have gone away. This past year, it seemed a large number of names were added. When a life ends, there is great sorrow for some and little fanfare for others. How do you want to be remembered? What memory are you leaving in the spot where you stood? What have you done to make the world a better place? Watch the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” with James Stewart, or the movie “Will Penny” with Charlton Heston.

From the movie “Will Penny”:

Will Penny: That’s always the way, ain’t it?
Alex: What’s always the way?
Will Penny: Let a man die, right away he’s “good, old Claude.” How was he before he bucked out?

Oh, and by the way, at the hospital when the nurse said this may hurt a little, she meant it. My IV was in place and I was ready to roll into the operating room. All sorts of thoughts ran through my mind: Will I really get out of here? Will I be able to walk? I wondered if I would hear the horse snicker… I want to make sure the horse does not snicker.

The Lawyers Know Too Much

—Carl Sandburg (1878–1967)

THE LAWYERS, Bob, know too much.
They are chums of the books of old John Marshall.
They know it all, what a dead hand Wrote,
A stiff dead hand and its knuckles crumbling,
The bones of the fingers a thin white ash.
The lawyers know
a dead man’s thoughts too well.

In the heels of the higgling lawyers, Bob,
Too many slippery ifs and buts and howevers,
Too much hereinbefore provided whereas,
Too many doors to go in and out of.

When the lawyers are through
What is there left, Bob?
Can a mouse nibble at it
And find enough to fasten a tooth in?
Why is there always a secret singing
Where a lawyer cashes in?
Why does a hearse horse snicker
Hauling a lawyer away?

The work of a bricklayer goes to the blue.
The knack of a mason outlasts a moon.
The hands of a plasterer hold a room together.
The land of a farmer wishes him back again.
Singers of songs and dreamers of plays
Build a house no wind blows over.
The lawyers—tell me why a hearse horse snickers hauling a lawyer’s bones.