From the Army to the Tennessee “T”, my family’s vehicles have a story to tell through bumper stickers. To me, bumper stickers are like miniature creeds. For example, my “26.2” sticker tells the world, “I am a marathon runner, and I will keep running until I finish the race!”
Perhaps you have a few bumper stickers or creeds of your own. In the Army, we lived by the Soldier’s Creed. This creed helped define my duty and served as a constant reminder of my personal identity as a soldier.
A few years ago, curiosity got the better of me and I began to search for the Lawyer’s Creed: A definitive statement of our collective beliefs as officers of the court. Would you believe me if I told you none existed?
As any lawyer would do in that situation, I wrote one. I share it here for your consideration.
I AM A LAWYER.
I AM A PROTECTOR OF THE RULE OF LAW, DUE PROCESSS, AND FAIRNESS.
I AM AN OFFICER OF THE COURT. I SERVE MY CLIENTS WITH LOYALTY, COMPETENCY, AND HONESTY. I AM TRAINED IN THE LAW.
I AM A PROFESSIONAL. I LIVE BY THE RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT.
I WILL NEVER QUIT.
I AM PREPARED TO ADVANCE THE LEGACIES OF JOHN ADAMS, BELVA LOCKWOOD, AND MACON ALLEN, WITH EVERY CLIENT I REPRESENT.
WHATEVER MY CORE EXPERTISE MAY BE, I WILL ALWAYS REFLECT PROFESSIONALISM AND CIVILITY.
I AM A GUARDIAN OF JUSTICE,
FREEDOM, AND THE AMEARICAN WAY OF LIFE.
I AM A LAWYER.
The creed is short, but the words are intentional. Allow me to explain.
To start, I want to be a lawyer. I actively want to be part of the institution of justice and uphold the rule of law always. In our roles as appellate judges, sometimes justice feels like “just us.” Together, however, we have a network of likeminded lawyers who are also living by this creed.
Our “clients” or “customers” come to us with limited knowledge of how our system of justice operates. It is our duty to show them how it should operate with honesty, integrity, and competency.
During this past year, there have been countless events that threatened these ideals. To say our jobs have been difficult is an understatement, but I will never quit fighting and advocating for truth and justice. I hope you won’t quit, either.
Do you recognize the names John Adams, Belva Lockwood, and Macon Allen? I am confident we all know John Adams. You know, the one who lived this creed, was fiercely opposed to slavery, and represented British soldiers who stood trial after the Revolution? But behind any great man is an even better woman, and his wife Abigail was a rock star. Remember, you too need support and encouragement along your journey. Amplify those people and thank them for all they do.
What about Belva Lockwood and Macon Allen? I forgive you if you have not heard much about them. I confess I had not heard of them for most of my life! Life is a learning process, and I hope you still desire to change and grow even if it hurts.
Back to Belva Lockwood. She ran for president in 1884 and 1888. You read that right: well before women could even vote! She fought hard for the right to vote, fought to obtain her law degree, fought to be admitted to the Supreme Court, fought for the first African American to be admitted to the Supreme Court, was the first woman to argue before the Court and the first woman to win at the Supreme Court. Belva Lockwood represents the best of our profession.
Macon Allen was one of the first persons of color to be licensed to practice law in the United States and was also the first person of color to be a judicial officer. Macon Allen was a pioneer and deserves recognition for navigating a road untraveled in the 1800s.
These individuals demonstrate the kindness, humility, civility, and professionalism so desperately needed in these times. My wish for the Appellate Judges Conference is that we would be a beacon of hope to our neighbors and friends that the justice system will always stand for these virtues. We are guardians of justice, freedom, and the American way of life. Whether you read this creed once or a thousand times as I have done, I hope it will serve as a reminder of who we are and who we strive to be.
I am a lawyer, and I am proud to serve alongside each of you.