Wednesday, November 13, 2013


As the current semester draws to a close, I am preparing for the next. While going through some of my old papers I came across a quote that I used back in 2006 during my first semester teaching the Prosecution Clinic. I felt it summed up what a prosecutor is supposed to do in a courtroom better than anything else I had ever read.

The author was a man named Richard Whately, who served as the Bishop of Dublin for the Church of Ireland back in the mid 1800's. Whately was a true polymath, who was recognized as a expert in the fields of rhetoric, logic, economics, and theology. He wrote extensively on all these subjects, and his books are still available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

In his 1828 work, "The Elements of Rhetoric," he described the task of the rhetorician as follows:

"Keep always on the side of truth; and, avoiding all sophistry or double dealing, aim only at setting forth that truth as strongly as possible, without any effort to gain applause for your own abilities."

Ironically, he said this admonition did not apply to lawyers, whom he evidently thought were a bunch of gangsters. If it doesn't apply to lawyers, it should. And it should apply doubly to anyone who wants to be a good prosecutor.

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