Lawyers are supposed to tell the truth in their professional lives, but are the rules different when a lawyer runs for political office? Bill Janis is a licensed Virginia attorney running for Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney--a position that involves supervises all of Henrico's criminal prosecutors.
Convincing voters that he is more qualified than his competitors is a stretch because he has no experience as a prosecutor whatsoever: Janis has never prosecuted anyone. One of Janis' competitors--Shannon Taylor--is an extremely experienced prosecutor with over twelve years of experience. Janis apparently felt that he couldn't match Taylor's experience and so he determined to defame her with an accusation he knew to be false when he made it.
Is it okay for a lawyer to lie in the course of a political campaign, especially when they are running for a postion that involves administering the law?
Shannon Taylor thinks Bill Janis has crossed the line and has committed unethical behavior. She has filed a complaint with the Virginia Bar Association. From the Taylor for CA Campaign:
Taylor Files Bar Complaint AboutJanis’ Egregious Misrepresentation
Henrico –Shannon Taylor, Democratic candidate for Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney, today reported that she has filed a Virginia Bar Complaint, under the “Rules of Professional Conduct”, Rule 8.4, about an attorney misrepresenting another lawyer’s behavior in an unethical way in regard to Bill Janis. Ms Taylor said, “Under Rule 8.3a, as an attorney following the Professional Guidelines, I am reporting this violation. In his political attack mailers, Mr. Janis is in violation of rule 8.4 which states that it is an abuse of the Rules of Professional Conduct to accuse a fellow attorney of unethical behavior when the accuser knows it to be false.
“I have spoken with the Virginia State Bar and I have filed the complaint online as is the process.
“Mr. Janis should be well aware of the judicial opinion that absolved me of any ethical conflict whatsoever. However, if he is so ignorant that he was not aware and did not do the elementary research to read the opinion, I informed him publicly last week. Since that time, he has continued to promulgate the same outrageous misrepresentation of the truth and therefore, he continues to be in flagrant violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
“An attorney who cannot follow his own professions’ ethical guidelines is not suited to be Commonwealth’s Attorney, the person charged with the safety and security of a locality and the highest attorney within the County. Instead, Mr. Janis has shown himself to be in willful defiance of basic ethical standards and totally unqualified for the position.
“The judge who wrote this ruling stating clearly that I had no ethical conflict, is a renowned expert on ethical conduct, having been a drafter of the very Rules of professional Conduct by which lawyers are supposed to comply.
“I am confident the Virginia State Bar will rule appropriately and will recognize the serious and complete ethical violation of Rule 8.4 that Mr. Janis has incurred. I eagerly await their ruling.
“Mr. Janis may feel that the Rules of Professional Conduct that govern attorneys can be ignored in a political campaign, but he is wrong. It is high time that those who are subject to slanderous attacks that sully their professional reputations speak up and that is why I feel compelled to file this complaint. Just because it is a political campaign does not give anyone the right to violate rules and attempt to destroy earned reputations.
Mr. Janis, I put you and anyone else on notice. I will not stand by and have my years of hard work and well-earned reputation destroyed by your political machinations.###