Archive for June, 2010

 

Professional Integrity and Thurgood Marshall

June 22nd, 2010
Jim Thomas

Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey was directly on point when he observed, “We all expect integrity from professionals.”  That includes lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers, architects, realtors,–all who are licensed to offer specialized services to the public.  We look upon them as experts in their respective fields.  We rely upon their trustworthiness, reliability, credibility, consistent and persistent performance until the task is finished.  We also expect them to adhere to the standards and demands of their organized professions.

 Integrity is a great imperative of the legal profession.  Justice Maura D. Corrigan of the Michigan Supreme Court says, “The lawyer can have all the legal ability in the world, but it is worthless if the practitioner has no integrity.  If others cannot trust you at your word, what good are you to your client, the court, attorneys, or others?  What credibility do you have?”

 The profession does not ignore it.  Upright conduct is taught in the law schools and is incorporated in codes of responsibility throughout the country.  No lawyer exemplified it more than Thurgood Marshall did.  As a NAACP staff attorney, he represented African-Americans in the volatile atmosphere of civil rights litigation during the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.

  Marshall appeared as defense counsel, the voice for the voiceless, in courthouses throughout the American South.  “Thurgood is coming,” they would say.  And he never let them down.  His clients were often destitute, disinherited, undereducated, unknown, hated, and despised.  With their civil rights frequently violated, they stood charged with crimes in courts of law contaminated with racial bias, prejudice, and state-sanctioned racism.  In viewing photos and footage of those events, it is hard to believe they occurred in the legal system of this country.

 For him and his colleagues public accommodations were unavailable.  They were forced to lodge and eat in private residences and out of the way place.  More than once, they fled for their lives, in the dead of night, from people who hated their advocacy, who bore arms and were intent upon shooting them.  Yet, even in the darkest nights in Alabama and Mississippi, he and his associate attorneys insisted on a few belts of bourbon and a game of poker

 Marshall shunned submission. Unawed by the difficulties, he refused intimidation and continued the representation, case-by-case, trial after courtroom trial, year after year.  Armed with the mighty tenants of the Constitution, he steered some thirty-two cases from rural trial courts to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he personally argued and won twenty-nine of them, including Brown v.  The Board of Education.  His career stands as a polestar of integrity and professional excellence in American law and jurisprudence.

Speaking Appearance,Augusta West Rotary

June 16th, 2010
Jim Thomas

I was pleased to be invited by Augusta West Rotary Club in Augusta, Georgia, to provide the program on June 10.  This is a strong club of about fifty members, many of whom are employed at Medical College of Georgia.  The audience was attentive and receptive to the theme of the speech, one that affirms the importance of integrity in all our dealings—personal, professional, commercial, and organizational.  Private discussions afterward convinced me that many citizens believe we have witnessed diminished integrity—across the spectrum of American life—in recent years.  I suggested every group could reap returns from posting in clear view an Integrity Credo, separate and apart from their Code of Ethics.

Speech at Sunrise Rotary,Savannah,GA

June 8th, 2010
Jim Thomas

On Thursday morning Mar 27, Jim Thomas was guest speaker at the Sunrise Rotary Club in Savannah.  About forty-five members and guests attended.

 He placed before the Club three basic questions: what is the true meaning of the cardinal virtue of integrity?  What are its driving motivations?  What basic rules govern its practice?  His remarks dwelt on the answers, with examples and profiles of integrity as it really is and ought to be.

 Title of the talk was The Integrity Imperative.  Following the talk, a dozen persons signed up for the Alliance for Integrity free quarterly newsletter, focusing on current problems and issues of integrity among individuals, professionals, businesses, and organizations. We hope you will, too.


For the Problem of Compromise: Three Basic Rules

June 1st, 2010
Jim Thomas

The unavoidable problem of compromise lies at the root level of integrity and upright conduct—in every sphere of modern life.  It starts with the formation of opinion.  Once formed, the holder of a new idea, an opinion, or a proposal, for example, faces the timeless choices of whether to express and espouse them? He must then decide if their implementation has need of adjustment or modification.  Fortunately, there are brief but indispensable rules that govern these prickly dilemmas.  Their application is virtually universal.

Rule One.  It affects the formation of opinion and rests upon the proposition that truth is a supreme value.  Though commonly practiced, the lie is also universally condemned.

Holding fast to the truth is mandatory.  Any other position causes one to become an imposter to one’s self, as the sacredness of fact and reality lose impact.  This is nothing more than the axiom that when it come to making up one’s mind in the first place integrity compels one to pursue the truth whenever, wherever, and however one finds it.

Rule Two.  Concerns the expression of one’s opinion.  Silence can amount to a statement of consent.  Moreover, the expression of one’s beliefs can have a profound effect upon others.  Here lies a clue to the respect and trust we have for those determined to express their consciences and themselves, though their opinions are not readily adopted and may be rejected outright.  Integrity makes no demand we take this to the extreme.  It does not compel one to engage in a life of incessant disputation.  Rule Two, however, disallows a refusal to make known one’s views on matters of principle.  It compels their expression—honestly, independently, fearlessly—even if the proponent suspects it may never be adopted.  An admiring colleague who did not always agree with him said of Chief Justice Earl Warren, “The man stood up and was counted on every great issue of his age.”

Rule Three.  On can form a view and express it, but he must also consider the implementation of it.  At this final juncture, he may employ greater flexibility.  Holding a view and enforcing a view belong to different realities.  Herbert Spenser said there is an indispensable compromise between the older established norms and new ideas for doing things as perceived by their advocates.  The holder of a new proposal inevitably confronts the status quo, the customary way of doing things.

Rule Three incorporates the engagement of common sense.  The immoral compromise is to suppress or mutilate the proffer, for sake of conformity.  The moral compromise is to accept a partial adoption of one’s views—so long as the partial adoption is on the path toward its eventual complete adoption.  This is the sensible acknowledgment that one’s contemporaries are not yet prepared to embrace the new idea or to change to conform to it.  As Edmund Burke so aptly noted, integrity does not require one “… to press one’s ideas to the ends of logic.”