Abraham Lincoln gives anti-slavery speech at NY's Cooper Union February 1860

Abraham Lincoln gives anti-slavery speech at NY’s Cooper Union, February 1860.

Today, I’m hoping you are out of the office and enjoying a day dedicated to United States Presidents. But if you happen to be in need of great blog reading, I offer a recent post by the Washington State Bar Association. In honor of the day, they recommended some books and movies about Abraham Lincoln. I concur.

In fact, read their nice summary of how we got this honorary day in the first place.

Mount Rushmore (Wikimedia Commons)

Mount Rushmore (Wikimedia Commons)

A bestriped Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

A bestriped Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

Dispensing justice is no easy matter. That is clear when you look at all the elements courts must worry about as they go about their daily duties.

Social media and juror misconduct are two of the more common areas courts must concern themselves with these days. But what about … judicial robes?

Apparently, some colorful judges in Florida have strayed too far into the hues. So much so that the state supreme court has issued an order requiring judges to stick to basic black—no adornments, please.

No surprise that the ABA Journal’s story lede mentions former Chief Justice Rehnquist’s penchant for a little pizzazz, manifested in the stripes (sorry, chevrons) he had added to his Chief’s robes—a la Gilbert and Sullivan.

I was surprised in the story that in the comment period one judge mentioned she would be disappointed in the “adornments” rule, as she likes to add a simple lace collar “to add a touch of femininity to the dignity of the robe. It is equally important for the Florida Supreme Court to acknowledge that we now have a diverse bench.”

Making justice pop: Chief Justice Rehnquist and his preferred chevrons.

Making justice pop: Chief Justice Rehnquist and his preferred chevrons.

I hadn’t thought about the diversity angle, but apparently the supreme court was unswayed by that argument.

Did you think Chief Justice Rehnquist’s taste was a tad florid? Well, don’t tell that to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Here’s a picture of those colorful fellows, and remember—they add wigs to those outfits too.

The Supreme Court of the U.K.: They could stop injustice—and traffic—in those robes.

The Supreme Court of the U.K.: They could stop injustice—and traffic—in those robes.

Meantime, I recalled my one opportunity to be more formal a few years ago, when I moderated a Law Day panel at a downtown Phoenix venue. On that day, the Maricopa County Supervisors chambers were filled with lawyers, judges and members of the public. When better, I thought, to channel my inner Abraham Lincoln.

Evidence that wisdom does not flow from the beard: I moderated a Law Day event while channeling president and lawyer Abe Lincoln.

Evidence that wisdom does not flow from the beard: I moderated a Law Day event while channeling president and lawyer Abe Lincoln.

Our Arizona Supreme Court reserved comment.

Here's how we covered the False Claims Act last March. (Get it? Whistleblower?)

Here’s how we covered the False Claims Act last March. (Get it? Whistleblower?)

Every now and then, the timeliness of a magazine article is brought home to you with great force. Yesterday’s Arizona Republic contained a piece that reminded me how valuable a magazine (even in print!) can be.

The subject of the Dennis Wagner story is a huge fraud settlement that a Tucson hospital must pay. As the article says, the Carondelet Health Network will pay $35 million, which is “the largest penalty of its kind in Arizona.” Just as fascinating, though, is the fact that “a whistle-blower who exposed the case will receive nearly $6 million of that sum.”

Read the whole story here.

The whistleblower is a Tucson woman named Jacqueline Bloink, “identified online as president of an agency that provides health-care compliance consulting and fraud investigations.”

Bloink sued Carondelet in 2011 in federal court. Then, “The Justice Department intervened and said Carondelet ‘knowingly and falsely billed’ the federal health agencies, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release.”

Back in March, we published an article regarding the continuing vitality of the federal False Claims Act. In it, authors Barb Dawson and Daniel Huitink explained how a qui tam plaintiff may step in and sue when they see wrongdoing that affects the public purse. Or, as Dennis Wagner writes, “The False Claims Act contains provisions that allow private citizens to file fraud complaints on behalf of the government and to share in whatever funds are recovered. Under terms of the settlement, Bloink is to receive $5.95 million.”

His article includes commentary from Bloink’s attorney:

“‘This settlement is an extraordinary achievement and confirms once again the essential role that private whistle-blowers and their counsel play in helping our partners in the government to combat health-care fraud,’ David J. Caputo, one of Bloink’s attorneys, said in a written statement.”

Extra points, there, for managing to shoehorn in the value of the whistleblower’s lawyer!

I encourage you to go back and read the article by Barb and Daniel. They give a concise history of what was called “Lincoln’s Law” (named for Abraham Lincoln; you’ll have to read to see why).

More important for possible clients who are potential defendants, read the practice tips our authors provide on how to head off such a lawsuit before it happens. As I read their sage advice, I imagine Carondelet missed the boat in numerous areas.

Just another example of how heeding a good attorney—and purchasing a reasonably priced magazine subscription—can make a world of difference.

Abraham Lincoln, by artist John Holcomb

In the February issue of Arizona Attorney (online February 1), we will run a great essay on what Abraham Lincoln can teach us modern-day lawyers. In some ways, his advice proves that we’ve learned very little since the 19th Century.

The essay is by lawyer Mark Rubin, who examines President Lincoln’s Notes for a Law Lecture. It’s in our recurring series titled “Law’s Attic.”

(Excuse me while I insert one small pitch for Law’s Attic, our feature that “sheds light on remarkable historical events whose anniversary is upon us. The feature is comprised of occasional short essays on noteworthy cases, laws or legal events whose anniversary is ripe—whether they occurred 10 years ago, or 500.” If you have suggestions for legal historical events that we should cover in 2011, contact me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.)

Along with the many things Lincoln advised lawyers about (which Mark covered so well), he always spoke about the “vague popular belief that lawyers are necessarily dishonest.” Our 16th President continued:

“I say vague, because when we consider to what extent confidence and honors are reposed in and conferred upon lawyers by the people, it appears improbable that their impression of dishonesty is very distinct and vivid. Yet the impression is common, almost universal.”

As the Metaphysical poet George Herbert said ...

Back to the future in 2011, how true that is. Americans have a real like–hate relationship with lawyers even now.

In law associations, much hand-wringing occurs over how we can tell the world about the good deeds lawyers accomplish. How can we improve the reputation of a profession that appears to be in decline (the reputation, that is, not the profession)?

OK, I get it. Lawyers, myself included, would prefer to have a good rep rather than a bad one. But we may be fighting against a straw man. For as Lincoln himself suggested, the popular belief about dishonest lawyers is a vague one. Many people may dislike the profession (or think they do), but they tend to like their own lawyer, or anyone they know who is a lawyer.

In my December Editor’s column, I wrote about renewed calls for lawyers to give more of their skills pro bono—in many ways, a troubling request:

Lawyering is very hard work. And contrary to what the popular media portray, that work is about more than billing and collecting and mortgaging second and third homes. It is about commitment to the needs of others, whether they be individuals or businesses.”

“That is what makes a call for pro bono service such a complicated project. The American Bar Association designated a week in October as a National Pro Bono Celebration. In support of that event, I published a few stories online about pro bono in Arizona (here, here, here, here and here). But urging service out of already-service-driven people feels a bit like, well, badgering.”

... Living Well Is the Best Revenge (by the band Midtown)

So yes, Lincoln and everyone else are right that we should safeguard our profession’s reputation. But at the same time, I remind my fellow lawyers—and friends who are not lawyers—that to speak about the good that lawyers do, you need only speak about what lawyers do. For in almost every way, the law is a profession of service to others.

As the poet George Herbert once suggested, the best revenge is not a giant PR campaign, or photos of lawyers kissing babies—it’s just living well, and lawyering the same way.