Wednesday, April 29, 2015, 08:07 AM
Posted by Administrator
Honesty is certainly the best policy but, when it comes to life, it is not the only policy. Lying in court is wrong and bad and ruins the reputation of many a lawyer. Though there is a great temptation to tell a potential client what they want to hear ("You will definitely win this case....and win big!") to get yourself hired....it is wrong to give in to that temptation. It is wrong even though most people will be likely to hire the lawyer who told them what they wanted to hear. (32 years into this business, I have to concede there appears to be more money in lies than truth.)

But, sometimes lying is okay. Here are all of the instances that I can think of with a brief explanation of the justification:

1) In negotiation...for instance to settle a case (civil or criminal---by way of a plea agreement)....it is fine for the Defendant to lie about how much it is willing to pay to settle ("The most we'll pay is $10,000 or we're going to trial!") and it is okay for the Plaintiff to lie about how much he/she will take ("We need a million to settle the case and that is non-negotiatble.") The other side is not relying on truthfulness, here....both sides know the one will pay more and the other will take less. This is how the system works. What if the Defendant honestly said "We'll pay $500,000." and the Plaintiff replied with "Truthfully, we'll take $200,00."??? A system based on putting all of one's cards on the table would work....but, it isn't the system we have now. Axiom: If I know you are lying to me and you know I'm not relying on your lie...it is no sin to make up numbers ("30 days in the county jail is the most Bobby will agree to.") that you believe will help you achieve your goal of protecting your client's interests.

2) In required pleadings and papers...for instance...criminal defendants always plead "not guilty" at the beginning. It isn't intended as a statement of fact, it is intended as a procedural requirement (you've got to choose "guilty" or "not guilty" and choosing guilty seems premature/throws yourself at the mercy of the Court/excuses the prosecution from having to do its job). If you sue me for an unpaid debt, I respond in a paper called an Answer that I don't owe you anything. I'm not lying....I'm letting you know that I will require that you prove your case. How do I know that you are suing the correct Steve Duhl? Why should I rely on your arithmetic? You are suing me....we are not friends....you've got to prove up every element of your case against me. And, maybe you can't. Sorry...that's the way the system works. I am not allowed to mess with you just to delay the case, but, on the other hand....

3) If you wish to tell me that...at the age of 60, wrinkled and about to teeter over and fall on the floor....that I should have been in the movies and that I don't look a day over 39....this would be an okay lie (and, I would believe you).

That's all I can think of...
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