Code of Professional Conduct
THE LAWYER AND THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
The lawyer should encourage public respect for and try to improve the administration of justice.1
1. The admission to and continuance in the practice of law imply a basic commitment by the lawyer to the concept
of equal justice for all within an open, ordered and impartial system. However, judicial institutions will not
function effectively unless they command the respect of the public. Because of changes in human affairs and the
imperfection of human institutions, constant efforts must be made to improve the administration of justice and
thereby maintain public respect for it.2
2. The lawyer, by training, opportunity and experience, is in a position to observe the workings and discover the
strengths and weaknesses of laws, legal institutions and public authorities. The lawyer should, therefore, lead
in seeking improvements in the legal system, but any criticisms and proposals should be bona fide and reasoned.3
Scope of the Rule
3. The obligation outlined in the Rule is not restricted to the lawyer's professional activities but is a general
responsibility resulting from the lawyer's position in the community. The lawyer's responsibilities are greater
than those of a private citizen. The lawyer must not subvert the law by counselling or assisting in activities
that are in defiance of it and must do nothing to lessen the respect and confidence of the public in the legal
system of which the lawyer is a part. The lawyer should take care not to weaken or destroy public confidence in
legal institutions or authorities by broad irresponsible allegations of corruption or partiality. The lawyer in
public life must be particularly careful in this regard because the mere fact of being a lawyer will lend weight
and credibility to any public statements.4 For the same
reason, the lawyer should not hesitate to speak out against an injustice. (As to test cases, see commentary 8 of
the Rule relating to advising clients.)
Criticism of the Tribunal
4. Although proceedings and decisions of tribunals are properly subject to scrutiny and criticism by all members
of the public, including lawyers, members of tribunals are often prohibited by law or custom from defending themselves.
Their inability to do so imposes special responsibilities upon lawyers. Firstly, the lawyer should avoid criticism
that is petty, intemperate or unsupported by a bona fide belief in its real merit, bearing in mind that
in the eyes of the public, professional knowledge lends weight to the lawyer's judgments or criticism. Secondly,
if the lawyer has been involved in the proceedings, there is the risk that any criticism may be, or may appear
to be, partisan rather than objective. Thirdly, where a tribunal is the object of unjust criticism, the lawyer,
as a participant in the administration of justice, is uniquely able to and should support the tribunal, both because
its members cannot defend themselves and because the lawyer is thereby contributing to greater public understanding
of and therefore respect for the legal system.5
Improving the Administration of Justice
5. The lawyer who seeks legislative or administrative changes should disclose whose interest is being advanced,
whether it be the lawyer's interest, that of a client, or the public interest. The lawyer may advocate such changes
on behalf of a client without personally agreeing with them, but the lawyer who purports to act in he public interest
should espouse only those changes that the lawyer conscientiously believes to be in the public interest.6
1. Cf. CBA-COD 12. IBA, "Duty to the Court": "In view of the vital part played
by lawyers in the administration of justice, they are under an obligation to strive to maintain respect for that
2. Cf. the traditional barristers' oath: "... to protect and defend the right and interest of such of your
fellow-citizens as may employ you .... You shall not pervert the law to favour or prejudice any man ...".
ABA ECs 8-1, 8-2 and 8-9: "Changes in human affairs and imperfections in human institutions make necessary
constant efforts to maintain and improve our legal system. This system should function in a manner that commands
public respect and fosters the use of legal remedies to achieve redress of grievances .... Rules of law are deficient
if they are not just, understandable and responsive to the needs of society .... The advancement of our legal system
is of vital importance in maintaining the rule of law and in facilitating orderly changes ...".
3. ABA ECs 8-1, 8-2: "By reason of education and experience, lawyers are especially qualified to recognize
deficiencies in the legal system and to initiate corrective measures therein .... [The lawyer] should encourage
the simplification of laws and the repeal or amendment of laws that are outmoded. Likewise, legal procedures should
be improved whenever experience indicates a change is needed."
4. Cf. CBA Preamble: "The lawyer is more than a mere citizen ...". "[L]awyers, because of what
they are as opposed to who they are ... are required to assume responsibilities of citizenship well beyond
[the basic requirements of good citizenship] ... This ... is necessary because we are the profession to which society
has entrusted the administration of law and the dispensing of justice.", MacKimmie, "Presidential Address"
(1963) 6 Can. B.J. 347 at 348. For lucid and divergent views as to the limits to which lawyers may properly go
in "defying the law" see editorial "Civil Disobedience and the Lawyer" (1967) 1(3) Law Soc.
U.C. Gaz. 5 and response thereto in (1968) 2 Law Soc. U.C. Gaz. 44.
5. Cf. CBA 2(2) and ABA EC 8-6. Tribunals generally possess summary "contempt" powers, but these are
circumscribed and are not lightly resorted to. Means exist through Attorneys-General and Judicial Councils for
the investigation and remedying of specific complaints of official misbehaviour and neglect; in particular cases
these should be resorted to in preference to public forums and the media.
6. Cf. ABA EC 8-4.
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