Sunday, July 24, 2022
Confessions Of A Catholic Litigator
David A. Shaneyfelt (Alvarez Firm, Calabasas, CA), Confessions of a Catholic Litigator, 17 U. St. Thomas L.J. 111 (2020):
I imagine there are Navy Seals whose consciences prick them when they swim aboard an enemy’s base in the dead of night, slit the throats of guards on duty, retrieve a hostage, gun down pursuers, and swim back to their escape boat. They do what is necessary under the circumstances, within a framework that renders their actions morally unobjectionable. I am
not a Navy Seal. I am a civil litigator. And I am a Catholic, just as I know there are Catholic Navy Seals. I feel like the same lessons that apply to them apply to me, because I, too, seem to be doing the moral equivalent of slitting throats and gunning down enemies, while operating in a framework—the legal profession—that renders my actions morally unobjectionable.
For more than thirty years, I have struggled over my role within the framework of litigation. I want to be a good Catholic. I want to be a good lawyer. Can I be both? Are there things I must do in my practice that offend my faith (and thus offend God)? Conversely, will practicing my faith to the fullest make me an inferior lawyer? Am I binding myself to some higher standard than legal ethics require?
For more than thirty years, I have tried to answer these questions. Try is the operative word, and my reflections may not accord with the reflections of others. As the old saying goes, put two attorneys in one room and you get three opinions. But as Chesterton says, “[i]f a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly,” and so I am content to try to answer these questions, because they are important questions, even if I may answer them badly according to others.
My focus is simple. I first look to the external effects I have on others. Second, I think of the internal risks to me. Combat soldiers certainly do. Allow me, then, to look through the lens of my faith and reflect on the external and internal effects of my life as a Catholic litigator.
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