A lawyer is an "officer of the court," many say, tossing off the phrase blithely, without really thinking about what — if anything — it might mean.
But here at USF, law professor Deborah M. Hussey Freeland has thought deeply about the concept of "officer of the court," and she breathes new life into this familiar trope in her latest article, "What Is a Lawyer? A Reconstruction of the Lawyer as an Officer of the Court," 31 Saint Louis University Public Law Review 425 (2012).
In the abstract, she states:
This paper engages with the central question in legal ethics concerning the lawyer's role, analyzing this fundamental question in terms of professional identity. Literature in this debate frames the lawyer either as a professional who exists entirely to serve her client (the "standard conception"), or as a professional whose primary duties are to the legal system. I reposit and examine the lawyer's professional identity as an officer of the court — an identity marginalized by those who favor the standard conception — noting that the phrase was coined to draw attention to a supplanting threat to legal professionalism. Providing a uniquely detailed examination of U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence and of U.S. judicial system structure and function, this investigation yields strong and consistent evidence that the lawyer's identity as an officer of the court is the actual, legal standard conception of the lawyer, as well as the defining basis of her identity — her sine qua non.
The full text of What Is a Lawyer? is freely available on SSRN.