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In Colorado it is too late to change to the system of state control. We traveled on a certain road, and can not turn back. Rights have become measurably fixed, and we must look to the courts to finally correct many of the glaring extravagances which have at times prevailed in the adjudication of water rights. This can only be done by holding fast to the constitutional idea that the right must be commensurate with the use, and by refusing recognition to whatever has the slightest appearance of speculation.
COMMITTEE ON GRIEVANCES.
Hon. Hugh Butler, President of the Colorado Bar Association: The work of the Grievance Committee since its appointment has been more along the line of cautious investigation than in the promotion of indiscriminate charges against members of the profession. Several meetings have been held at which cases needing immediate attention have been particularly considered, but nothing has been done toward final disposition of the many cases pending before it. We have been furnished with something approximating specific evidence of unprofessional conduct in about ten cases. The watchful eye of the Secretary of the association has supplied us with newspaper reports of professional lesion in some fifteen other cases, from all of which we have obtained a general idea of the extent of the evil with which we are expected to deal.
The offenses charged are varied in character, the prevailing ones having to do with obtaining money by dishonest practices and refusing to account, or withholding money after the same has been lawfully obtained under color of the profession. False returns of service of process in divorce cases, in one case a forged decree of divorce, negligent management of cases and blackmailing proceedings, are included in the list of offenses. We have caused proceedings for disbarment to be instituted in two cases, and were about taking legal steps in others when the members threatened abruptly left the state. On the whole, it may be said that the organization of this association has already had a deterrent, if not a cleansing effect, at least among the profession in the city of Denver.
We found, in considering the charges preferred, that a thorough examination of each case for the purpose of justifying a prosecution, and of sustaining a prosecution when commenced, required more time than the committee as a whole could give, and the plan has therefore been adopted of assigning specific cases to members of the committee, and also to members of the association not belonging to the committee. We have avoided a wholesale onslaught, which would have savored too much of an aggressive reform, and have confined ourselves within the limits of the usual professional conservatism.
The cases selected for presentation to the Supreme Court were so aggravated in character and associated with such clear proofs of guilt, that we were very certain that success would indicate the discrimination of the committee. The attorney general has very freely given his official sanction to all proceedings recommended by us, and the Supreme Court has shown a disposition to relieve the prosecutions of all technical obstructions, and to aid us in advancing the standard of professional life.
A question has arisen as to what should be done in cases where attorneys have left the state in anticipation of proceed ings against them, and upon whom no process could be personally served. While it is true that Colorado is thus rid of an offending member, the rolls of the Supreme Court still furnish an introduction to the bar of other states, where the fleeing attor ney may find fresh fields for his irregular methods. We have several cases of this character now under consideration, and will soon invite the opinion of the Supreme Court as to the procedure proper in such cases. In some of the cases pending, the members of the committee have been subjected to many persistent and pathetic appeals for mercy, not made particularly on behalf of the offending attorney, but in behalf of his family or connections. This illustrates anew the fact, so well known to the bar in particular, that in all cases of human weakness, the punishment inflicted is far reaching. The most venal offense has this consequence, as well as the most trivial; and if the members of the committee were to be controlled by such consequences, the mission assigned to it would very soon fail. To be swayed by such considerations in the face of admitted or clearly established guilt, would convert the members into judges of the strength of extraneous influences, and would thus very soon vest the committee with a power of discrimination so base and tyrannical in its motives as to invite its own just destruction. The
knowledge brought to us that certain offenses were committed under circumstances strongly appealing to our sympathies has rendered the work painful and disagreeable. We are not at this time disposed to judge the profession by a standard which the ordinary business community will not accept for its own gov ernment, though at the same time we feel that if the practice of the law is an honorable profession and not a trade, a test must be adopted proportioned to the honorable distinction to be maintained. In public estimation the bar has certainly declined, and largely because of the prevalence of methods which can not be considered as sharp practice merely, but are rather to be denominated downright dishonesty.
Heretofore the committee has acted on its own views, and according to its own methods, and the moral force of the movement has largely depended upon the committee alone. As the primary purpose of this organization is to elevate the profession, restoring as nearly as possible the prestige which it formerly possessed, it seems to us that a specific direction at this time to continue active measures to secure disbarment in proper cases, would have a very salutory effect upon the weaker members of the bar..
The world is ruled by force of example, and the standard of this association, vigorously defended, ought to bring every member of the bar to a sense of the honor and responsibility of his calling. The committee does not understand that it is desirable to reduce the profession in numbers, but rather to elevate it in character.
In view of this object, it recommends the publication by this association for general circulation of the Code of Ethics adopted by the Bar Association of the state of Alabama, hereto attached, which, while it may be prolix, nevertheless furnishes a guide which, if followed, will prevent bitter regrets and possibly public contumely.
CODE OF ETHICS.
The purity and efficiency of judicial administration which, under our system, is largely government itself, depend as much upon the character, conduct and demeanor of attorneys in this great trust, as upon the fidelity and learning of courts, or the honesty and intelligence of juries.
"There is, perhaps, no profession after that of the sacred ministry, in which a high-toned morality is more imperatively necessary than that of the law. There is certainly, without any exception, no profession in which so many temptations beset the path to swerve from the lines of strict integrity; in which so many delicate and difficult questions of duty are constantly arising. There are pitfalls and man-traps at every step, and the mere youth, at the very outset of his career, needs often the prudence and self-denial, as well as the moral courage, which belong commonly to riper years. High moral principle is his only safe guide; the only torch to light his way amidst darkness and obstruction."-Sharswood.
No rule will determine an attorney's duty in the varying phases of every case. What is right and proper must, in the absence of statutory rules and an authoritative code, be ascertained in view of the peculiar facts, in the light of conscience, and the conduct of honorable and distinguished attorneys in similar cases, and by analogy to the duties enjoined by the statute, and the rules of good neighborhood.
The following general rules are adopted by the Colorado Bar Association for the guidance of its members:
DUTY OF ATTORNEYS TO COURTS AND JUDICIAL OFFICERS.
1. The respect enjoined by law for courts and judicial officers is exacted for the sake of the office, and not for the individual who administers it. Bad opinion of the incumbent, however