Gonzales as the lubricant in the Texas death machine

A case study in ethical confusion.

Before he got into the torture-enabling business, Alberto Gonzales was in the business of enabling executions, in at least one case the execution of someone for a crime he hadn’t committed. (In that case, after the Texas Attorney General made a fuss, Gov. Bush had to reverse the decision he’d made on the basis of Gonzales’s memo.)

There’s a pattern here: Gonzales apparently doesn’t know the differience between advocacy situations, in which a lawyer’s ethical responsibility is to push a particular position as hard as he can within the bounds set by basic honesty and the procedural rules, and advisory situations, in which a lawyer’s ethical responsibility is to give his client an accurate picture of the considerations that ought to move his decision. In lawyering, as in investment banking, there are good careers to be made writing dishonest opinions that tell a client what he wants to hear, but those aren’t honest careers.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

One thought on “Gonzales as the lubricant in the Texas death machine”

  1. Ahead of My Time

    I don't think of myself as an incredibly original thinker, but sometimes seeing modes of analysis turn up in wider distribution months after they were advocated here is a bit frustrating. But at least the ideas are being adopted (or more to the point,…

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