Top criminal judge gives lecture on ethics at Bay Lawyers Association meeting
Brooklyn’s top criminal judge, Hon. Matthew D’Emic, administrative judge of the Brooklyn Supreme Court, Criminal Term, gave a lecture on ethics in front of approximately 80 lawyers at the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association’s monthly meeting on Wednesday.
The continuing legal education lecture fulfills a requirement that attorneys receive at least 24 credits each two-year period including at least two ethics credits. Member Joseph Rosato explained that these types of meetings are important even for the most experienced attorneys.
“People think that just because a lot of the members have been working 20 to 30 years we don’t need lectures like this,” said Rosato, who is also president of the Columbian Lawyers Association. “Ethics rules are changing all of the time and not only do we need to stay on top of the changes, but sometimes we need reminders about other things that are important.”
Even fellow administrative judge Hon. Lawrence Knipel, from the Brooklyn Supreme Court, Civil Term, was in attendance. He said he thought the judge did an excellent job of making what can be a dry topic interesting.
The title of Justice D’Emic’s lecture was, “Professional Ethics or an Ethical Profession? Can Plato and Aristotle Help?”
The judge explained that he put nearly 50 hours of preparation into the CLE, and that he read two books on professional responsibility and ethical obligations as part of that. His focus was to be able to approach the topic in a way that even experienced attorneys would find interesting.
“What I thought about was the basis of ethics which goes back to the Greeks and Greek philosophers who talked about the four cardinal virtues — prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude,” Justice D’Emic said. “I divided it up, gave examples of each, good and bad, who was prudent and who wasn’t.
“We all practice these virtues whether we are aware of it or not,” he continued. “These monthly meetings alone promote friendship, thoughtfulness, trust and good will, which are really other words for prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude.”
The judge went on to explain that while television and movies often depicts unethical attorneys, who cut corners to get a better result for their client, clients benefit the most from ethical attorneys. He explained that in the legal community an attorney’s reputation can be paramount.
“Some clients actually expect their attorneys to break the rules in their favor, but they don’t understand that hiring an unethical attorney is doing a disservice to themselves,” D’Emic said. “One of the things I said was, don’t let your clients lead you astray or pressure you into something that you shouldn’t do.”
President of the Bay Ridge Lawyers Joseph Vasile also welcomed six new members to the organization including Hon. Harriet Thompson, justice of the Surrogate’s Court in Brooklyn, and Hon. Joanne Quinones, acting Supreme Court justice, Criminal Term. Bruno Codispoti, past president of the Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn, also joined the ranks.
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