Some of the Justice Department’s ethically challenged lawyers got a reprieve Monday from having to go back to school for a refresher course in ethics. U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen apparently wants them to repeat Truth-telling 101, which is useful but only an elective in most law schools. But there’s a risk in telling deliberate fibs, stretchers, and lies to certain judges.
In fact, lying to a judge, under oath or not, is nearly always not a good idea. It’s like trying to disarm a policeman. A lawyer, whether a government lawyer and or a lawyer for the poor schlub called to the bar to answer for felony or misdemeanor, is expected to play it straight in court. Lawyers are sometimes bad about stretching facts to cover a lack of authentic evidence, and judges are often quick to forgive a slip of the tongue or memory. Judges are lawyers, too. But not always.
Justice Department lawyers enraged Judge Hanen last month when they told him, loud, clear and several times, that President Obama’s deportation amnesty, called “deferred action,” had not actually gone into effect and was, in fact, still deferred. Only it wasn’t. They had stretched the truth somewhat; if a mere citizen under oath had done this, it would have been called “lying.”