I find it hard to watch interviews of politicians and its almost impossible to watch political debates. This is because I have been trained as a country lawyer. Country lawyers have a code.
First, as a Lawyer, your word is your bond. In Kansas, and especially rural Kansas, lawyers deal with each other over and over. They appear in front of the same judges over and over. If your word is no good, it won’t be long before everyone knows it. Life in court then becomes very difficult.
Second, there are strict rules for appearing in Court. The judge, opposing counsel, witnesses and everyone in the court room is to be treated with respect. Judges do not hesitate to pull lawyers aside who step out of line.
Third, candor is expected and required. If the judge addresses a question to counsel, it is to be answered candidly and completely. Any attempt to avoid the question or fall back on talking points, is nipped in the bud. If the lawyer cannot or will not answer pointed questions, then the argument is over.
Lawyers direct their arguments to the Court and to the jury, not to each other. Personal attacks are not permitted or tolerated.
Politicians can’t answer a simple question. Politicians routinely resort to personal insults over substantive answers.
The result of our current debate is a dearth of real information. Instead, we just root for our teams and tune out the other side.
Some of these politicians are lawyers too. Every so often, they will venture into the Court room and try out their political arsenal of tricks. They seem genuinely shocked, when they lose the argument or when their lies are pointed out and sanctions are imposed.
If you want to see good lawyers argue cases, don’t watch television. Instead, pull up the Kansas Supreme Court website and watch lawyers take on issues of great importance, even issues of life and death. You might be surprised to see how civil the arguments are and, accordingly, how informative.