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The Status of Legal Ethics


Pawel Teodor Skuczynski

The basic aim of the study is to describe the ambiguity of the term legal ethics in the context of different traditions and conceptions. The three most important traditions of legal ethics are: the French, with the categories of virtue and independence, the American, with the ideas of loyalty and professional duties, and the German, with professional roles and obedience. On that base, a theory of critical legal ethics is developed. It claims that the subject of legal ethics consists of three planes – deontological, social and moral. Further it is examined, whether chosen legal-philosophical conceptions contain any legal ethics conceptions and what could be the interdisciplinary research program of legal ethics.


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The increasing interest which has been observed in recent years in legal ethics* is often a starting point for modern reflection on this subject. This attitude seems fully justified for at least two reasons. First of all, research directions, especially in practical sciences, to a significant extent are, and should be, determined by the needs of practice. Secondly, practice continually provides data which may form arguments for or against a specific thesis, conception or scientific theory. For the theory presented in the following work and the applied methodology it primarily means increased sensitivity to the needs of practice. Simultaneously, an assumption is being made that, in the case of practical philosophy, practice that should be taken into account covers not only the way in which people act, but also whether and how they justify their actions. In the most developed branches of practical philosophy, singular justifications as well as whole sets of them may be found in ideologies and doctrines and they also should become subjected to explanation and criticism. As far as legal ethics is concerned, even superficial knowledge of literature allows us to draw the conclusion that a basic problem of practice, in its broad sense, is the conceptual confusion, manifesting itself not only in ambiguity of terms – which seems unavoidable in a branch on the border of law and morality – but primarily in ignoring the fact of this ambiguity. This ambiguity is also disregarded in theoretical considerations, which leads to the situation where scientific theses and concepts...

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