The Issue Of Legal Ethics

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Introduction Having called the tune, Cintolo cannot be excused…on the basis of his vocation…[We] emphatically reject the notion that a law degree, like some sorcerer’s amulet, can ward off the rigours of the criminal law. The law itself is not a shield for ethical wrongdoing, legal ethics and how they are applied by international lawyers has become the subject of much contention since the infamous memorandum drafted in 2002 by Jay Bybee and John Yoo (Yoo) otherwise known as the ‘torture memo’. This essay seeks to examine the issue of legal ethics through the lens of the experience of Yoo and what this means for the provision of international legal advice in the United States (US) system. This examination will look at, first, the ethics of lawyers in the US system. Secondly, how legal advice is provided based on who the client is and the advantages of each approach. Third, ethics will be explored through the legal advice provided in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). Fourth, how international human rights law (IHRL) applies and how the torture memo sought to ignore it. Finally, a look at how do we strengthen legal ethics to ensure what happened during the Yoo years never repeats. Legal Ethics What are legal ethics? The ethical duty a lawyer, has been described by Lord Brougham in the defence of Queen Caroline in her divorce of King George VII as ‘an advocate, by the sacred duty which he owes his client, knows, in the discharge of that office, but one person in the
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