The attorney who handles civil lawsuits in the United States is increasingly being labeled a lawyer, and not just by law enforcement agencies.
Criminal justice lawyers are increasingly being accused of practicing “custodial lawyer” practices, in which they may be required to attend training or be paid to represent clients in criminal cases, a new report by the National Law Journal said.
Lawyers have long been accused of using their practice to enrich themselves.
In an effort to better educate the public about the dangers of practicing criminal justice, the Journal reported in June that the attorney profession was increasingly taking steps to avoid such labels.
“Lawyers are increasingly identifying themselves as attorneys,” said Jessica Buell, a law professor at the University of California at Irvine and co-author of the paper.
“They are getting their professional credentials recognized.
They are being recognized for their work in a way that is not what it was five years ago.”
The law has long considered the attorney a “professional” with a job, and legal training, and the law is now recognizing that in addition to the profession’s importance, lawyers can be productive members of society.
The Journal report said many attorneys were working with students in the private sector, and many are not aware of the legal profession’s history of abusive practices.
“[Criminal] prosecutors have used this label of the ‘custode lawyer’ to criminalize and prosecute innocent people,” Bueill said.
“Lawyers who have been charged with misconduct and who are charged with being lawyers have been labelled a felonious criminal and a criminal lawyer.”
According to the Journal, about half of all attorneys are expected to be convicted of misconduct in the next two years, while about one in three lawyers who are arrested are accused of being a felon.
“It is an epidemic,” Buesll said.
The Journal said there were two key reasons attorneys were labeled as attorneys: the perception that the legal system treats them differently, and because many were not fully aware of how their actions could affect others.
“The criminal justice system is the most egregious offender,” Buingll said, noting that many are still learning about the importance of civil litigation.
(Related: Lawyer Attorneys: It’s the End of the Criminal Justice System?)
The Journal also reported that the U.S. attorney general’s office is investigating allegations that several top prosecutors at the time of the Occupy movement and some of the people they prosecuted were improperly involved in civil litigation and paid to act as defense counsel for those people.