LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Herring derelict on duty to defend state law

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring has abandoned his client (“VA’s top law official won’t enforce voter-approved gay-marriage ban,” Web, Jan. 23). The people of Virginia hired Mr. Herring to be their lawyer, to provide them with good counsel and to represent them to the best of his ability. However, Mr. Herring has decided that his views and wishes take precedence over those of his clients.

Now the issue becomes one of the morality of the legal profession and the sincerity of the Virginia Bar Association in ensuring the professionalism of those practicing law in the commonwealth of Virginia. It is the association’s duty to protect those seeking legal help from charlatans and incompetents. How many times have we heard from the legal profession that everyone is entitled to a defense even though the attorney knew the guilt of the client? How many times have we heard that it is the courts that decide issues of conflict and law between parties? However, is it not the responsibility of the Virginia Supreme Court — and, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court — to determine constitutionality?

Mr. Herring’s decision not to defend the Virginia Constitution is no less a violation of everything we have been told and believe about an attorney’s responsibility toward his client than a lawyer who sat silent as his client was tried in court. Failure to defend a client in that case would certainly be deemed misconduct or incompetence, and everyone would expect the relevant bar association to take action against that lawyer.

So is the Virginia Bar Association going to be a potted plant and sit by while a lawyer under its jurisdiction publicly and blatantly violates his oath not only to his client, the people of Virginia, but also to his responsibilities to his profession?

If Mr. Herring personally has a problem defending the Constitution of Virginia, he should resign or at the very least assign another lawyer in his office to the job. The way in which the Virginia Bar Association reacts will give us a real look at the legal profession. Is the association what it professes to be — or are we just being fed a lot of propaganda?

ROBERT A. POGGI

Alexandria

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