Our opinion: Doing the right thing

The American Bar Association’s preamble for its Model Rules of Professional Conduct begins with this:

“A lawyer, as a member of the legal profession, is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.”

It is a succinct start to a fairly lengthy document that outlines the responsibilities of those who tidy up the frayed edges of society, who maintain an order necessary to ensure that the guilty are punished, the innocent are exonerated, that the extraordinarily complicated system of public order is maintained.

So often the legal community is the butt of jokes based on the assumption that they all wear out their shoes chasing ambulances and care only for the fee. You’ve heard them. As in any profession there are those who hold ethics and standards close to their hearts, and others who don’t – even journalists.

But, over the past two weeks Warren County has witnessed an example of a barrister who is a “public citizen having a special responsibility for the quality of justice.”

His name is Rob Greene, and since the first of the year, he has been the county’s District Attorney, the guy who does his best to prosecute those who are charged with a crime. In a way, however, he has been thrust into a defense role. And, because he is first and foremost a lawyer, an officer of the court with a responsibility for justice, he is almost frantically trying to right previous wrongs – a lot of them.

Having discovered that over the past five years people were wrongfully charged and prosecuted for driving under the influence of alcohol when they may have actually been within legal limits for blood alcohol content and others wrongfully convicted of higher rates of alcohol content and thus improperly received stiffer penalties than they should have, he is working to set things right. It’s important to note that this problem was uncovered and its remedy initiated by the county’s chief prosecutor.

It’s a mammoth job. There are hundreds, perhaps a thousand, cases involved, and it will take time to sort things out.

He’s doing it because it is the right thing to do.

And, in the process, he is bolstering trust in the legal system. Justice only prevails when it is trusted.

It’s not all about winning and losing in front of a judge; it’s about doing what’s right.