Lawyers Not Immune from Violence

Today, we received the unfortunate news that one of our Texas colleagues was shot to death by two unidentified gunmen outside the Kaufman County Courthouse, just southeast of Dallas. Assistant DA Mark Hasse was on his way to work when the two men ambushed him in broad daylight with courthouse employees and other innocent bystanders nearby.   

Most people don’t think that practicing law is a dangerous job – it generally isn’t – but violence against lawyers and judges certainly is not unique.  Lawyers occupy the front lines of societal conflict, trying their best to end, alleviate or prevent such conflict through legal means. But that inherent conflict often gives rise to strong emotions that, unfortunately, drive some to violence.
       
Probably every lawyer has felt threatened at some point by a disgruntled opponent, client or third party. Certain practice areas – such as criminal law and family law – are well-known among those in the legal profession as being potentially dangerous, especially for those who do that type of work every day. 

Hasse was a criminal prosecutor, and prosecutors are charged with the task of protecting the public from violent criminals, people who already have demonstrated their disregard for the law and other people. Prosecutors’ jobs require them to engage violent offenders face-to-face in a public courtroom while trying to put them behind bars. And these employees of state and federal governments do their work for significantly less money than many lawyers earn in less-hostile environments, particularly those in private practice.       

We mourn the tragic and unnecessary loss of one of our fellow members of the bar, and we grieve for his family, friends and colleagues. To Mark Hasse and prosecutors everywhere, we honor your willingness to represent our profession on the very front lines, working every day to protect the rest of us from those who would do us harm even when you know the risks.    
 

Posted: 1/31/2013 2:47:14 PM by On the Merits 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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