Motivated by Justice, Not Money

The Preamble to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct – the binding rules of ethics to which all Texas attorneys must adhere – states:

A lawyer is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice. . . .   A lawyer should be mindful of deficiencies in the administration of justice and of the fact that the poor, and sometimes persons who are not poor, cannot afford adequate legal assistance, and should therefore devote professional time and civic influence in their behalf. 

Michael Morton can be thankful that there are Texas lawyers who take these obligations to heart.  Morton was freed from prison last month by District Judge Sid Harle after serving 25 years for a murder he did not commit. DNA evidence from the crime scene proved that he was innocent in the death of his wife, Christine. 

But Justice for Morton wasn’t quick or easy. Houston civil litigator John Raley was persuaded to take on Morton’s case seven years ago by Nina Morrison, an attorney with the Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing.  Even though Raley is not a criminal lawyer, he dedicated himself to ensuring that Morton got the justice he was denied in 1986:   

While most lawyers who volunteer for Innocence Project cases work in large law firms where "somebody else" picks up the slack, Morrison noted, Raley works with a small firm - Raley & Bowick. "There aren't a lot of 'somebody elses' in John's firm," Morrison noted. "And this was a huge undertaking."

According to Morrison, Raley brought an unprecedented “level of outrage to the proceedings” on behalf of his client, a former grocery store employee whose tragedy was distressingly compounded by an obvious failure of the justice system.

Raley told reporters that his dedication came from the horrifying realization that this “could have happened to anyone in this courtroom.” Yes, it can, unfortunately, which is why we applaud the tireless work of John Raley and countless lawyers like him who work for true justice, even when it is a long time coming.

Posted: 1/11/2012 12:00:00 AM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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