Daniel Henry Gottlieb --- January 30, 1997

The question before us is: Should a person who would argue that one plus one is not two, because this argument benefits his client, be an officer of the court?

Mathematics has a peculiar property. A situation can be very murky. Mathematical reasoning may be tried, and suddenly the underlying truth can become so clear and self-evident that one wonders how there could have been confusion in the first place.

Consider France in the Tenth Century. The King was elected by the Nobles and had very little power outside of Paris. Then one of them began having the phrase announced, "King by grace of God". After thirty or forty years of this, no one could remember how it was before. The idea took hold that the King was appointed by God and not by the Nobles. The power of the Kings grew and grew.

This notion spread throughout Europe and lasted until the Eighteenth Century without serious opposition. But by 1776 a contrary notion had become a self- evident truth: "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed".

How this reversal of political philosophy took place is stirringly told in Morris Kline's "Mathematics in Western Culture". In short, Isaac Newton's four Laws of Mechanics and Gravitation of 1687 led to remarkable successes in understanding the natural world. So in every field of endevour, scholars tried to propound similar laws from which would be derived the essence of the subject. In the case of Political Science, the Axiom was that "All Men are Created Equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights".

Nowadays we see that the legal profession believes that justice is served by advocates who try their best for their clients, even if it means arguing that one plus one is NOT equal to two. This is reaffirmed daily in the public discussion occasioned by the miscarriage of Justice in the O.J. Simpson trial.

Thirty or Forty years ago society regarded Lawyers as officers of the court. They could explain the Law to clients and represent them in justice process. Thus it was against the Law for Lawyers to advertise and seek out clients. And it was against the Law for a Lawyer to have a financial stake in the outcome of a legal suit. And it was unethical to introduce witnesses who the Lawyer knew was lying.

Now in addition to being officers of the Justice system, Lawyers are a profession and are teaching themselves that justice depends upon other maxims then honesty and the search for truth and justice. Those maxims are that the lawyer should above all sublimate his private opinions to advance the cause of his client. How can you have integrity when you argue in public that 1 + 1 is NOT 2 because somebody paid you to?

The legal profession has increased its monopoly on the justice system while abandoning those principles which made the system work. Thus from the Sixtys onward, we started to have contingency fees, and lawyers won the right to search out business instead of having to wait until they were asked to help, and the concept that the lawyer must give his all for the client (instead of trying to merely represent his clients in the process of justice) began to be preached from all the pulpits.

To see these thing are wrong, just apply them to prosecutors.

Should Prosecutors have a financial stake in the outcome of a trial? Should Prosecutors go out and accuse people of crimes without a complaint? Should Prosecutors try to convict somebody they suspect is innocent because somebody paid them to?

Let us try a thought experiment. What would Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln say about the proposition that a Lawyer should advance his client's cause independent of reason? That he should try to choose juries unequipped to understand evidence and then try to confuse them, all to benefit the cause of the person who pays them? I think they would say, these people should not be officers of the court. If we need people like these, at least separate them from the court the way the barristers in England block the lawyers from becoming officers in the court.

Return to Mathematics and the Law

Comments to

Return to Daniel Henry Gottlieb's Home Page.