The case study presents an ethical dilemma for the assistant prosecutor. An ethical dilemma in the legal profession exists when there is a conflict of interest between the clients or ones stands to gain or lose financially or otherwise. The bar describes legal ethics, as the least acceptable conduct within the legal profession that among others involves duties that members of the profession owe to each other and to their clients and the court. The resolution of a conflict of interest is guided by the education acquired as a legal professional, judgment, experience and common sense. The rules of ethics are also used to resolve conflicting interests that arise in the course of duty. Consequences due to an unethical conduct of a paralegal may include suspension, probation and even disbarment (Warren, 1962).
In determining the right course of action to take, I would be guided by the five stepped series that have been brought forward by Joycelyn Pollock. The first step deals with the identification of facts that are bringing up the dilemma. In this case, the issues bringing up the dilemma are in the fact that the state's attorney under whom I, the assistant prosecutor, work needs this case to be awarded the highest number for the drug dealer. The fact that I stand to gain a promotion from the attorney’s success has created the possibility of a conflict of interest. The second step would involve the identification of the relevant values and concepts that would be applicable. The fundamental values in all cases are duty, loyalty, honesty, friendship and self-preservation (Pollock, 2011). In this case, the decision to secure my promotion would be in conflict with values of loyalty, honesty to the court, the state’s attorney and law. Thirdly, one should exhaustively identify the moral dilemmas that are likely to occur for all the members that are involved in the case. This step is vital as it enables one to see the origin of the ethical dilemma as originating from the actions and expectations of others. In the facts presented in this case, the origin of my dilemma is the state’s attorney desire to be seen as a drug warrior thus, helping him in his congress campaigns. An ultimatum has been given that my promotion was pegged on the condition that I delivered a conviction of the highest number of years. the fourth step would be, to make a decision on the most pressing moral or ethical issue that one is faced (Fuller, 2010). Pollock describes this stage as behavior guided by choice and not on opinion. My immediate decision would be to choose my career, which would see me, accept the offer by the defense attorney of helping me get a 40-year sentence for the dealer’s girlfriend. The fifth step would involve the resolution of the conflict/ ethical issue by utilizing a given system of rules or decision-making procedure.
The ethical system is defined as the structured set of rules that determine what is considered moral and ethical. The system is the source of information it forms the premise for which judgment is based and it is inarguable. The ethical system of a legal professional has its origin to the American Bar Association that requires members to exercise the highest level of skill to improve the profession and to offer public service (Pollock, 2011).
Guided by my ethical system, which states that I should ensure that I serve the state honestly and strive to uphold ethics in my endeavors, I would pursue a conviction for the drug dealer irrespective of the fact that a forty-year sentence was unlikely. This means that I would reject the defense’s offer for the deal to convict the dealer’s girlfriend. Since the girl is unwilling to cooperate, I would seek to find ways to incriminate the drug baron (Fuller, 2010). This would then mean that I am in a position to miss the opportunity of my promotion. The state as my client, I owe a duty to exercise skill, honesty and loyalty. My focus would be to seek evidence from other sources other than the girl. The defense team is well informed on the fact that I stand to gain from securing a forty-year conviction.
The attorney has the duty to educate their subordinates on issues of ethics and institute a written policy that details the basic ethical issues. With this form of a policy in place, it would form the basis of my decision as a subordinate to the state’s attorney. The lack of this meant that I ought to act on other ethical systems. The attorney should be seen to take all necessary actions to ensure that the subordinates act ethically. This would include punishing those who act unethically. The fact that the attorney expected a strong conviction regardless of the path I followed was indicative of the fact that the attorney disregarded legal ethics. The model on standards and guidelines for legal assistants provided by NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants) are as follows; any legal assistant should disclose ones status as an assistant; one should preserve the trust and confidence of clients and have an understanding of the ethics applicable to the superiors that are likely to subject to charges of unethical behavior. The ABA also states that a lawyer should not use the information held to the disadvantage of another client. The defense attorney had taken this path of trying to incriminate the girlfriend in spite of the fact that his role in the case was to defend the drug dealer (Warren, 1962).
My decision would appear naive, but it would ensure that the due process of convicting the criminal is followed. This would also avert future charges of unethical behavior onto my immediate superior and me. My decision would secure my employment as a legal assistant and, while it does not give me the promotion, it has protected the image of the state's attorney.