Something Against Lawyers?

To the Editor:

I’m writing in response to a letter to the editor from Ron Pal in today’s (10/18/21) Caledonian Record. Ron suggests a practicing attorney has a conflict of interest if he/she also serves in the legislature. He suggests such individuals should choose one or the other. He ends by asking what people out there think. Well Ron, I’d be against that.

Some people may not know this, but of Vermont’s 180 lawmakers there is only one sitting legislator who still practices law. That would be me. (There are a couple of other legislators who are lawyers, but they no longer practice.) So my initial reaction to your letter was to wonder what I did for you to claim I have some conflict. If that is what this is about, I’d welcome a dialogue.

Then I wondered: is Ron possibly suggesting that we should have a full time legislature? I happen to believe there is great value in having a part-time, citizen legislature. It minimizes tax increases and endless legislation. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be given the opportunity to serve, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to survive 52 weeks a year with only 20 weeks of a legislator’s pay. (Although we are only in session for roughly 20 weeks, you answer constituents year round.) To survive in our part-time, citizen legislature, you really need to have another source of income. I chose legal fees. How does that become a conflict?

Ron, is it possible you just have something against lawyers? A good many of the founders of this country and state were lawyers. Take, for instance, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Madison on the national level, or Nathaniel Chipman, Royall Tyler or Isaac Tichenor on the state level. Where would our system of government be without them? It would be a shame to nullify their contributions simply because of their chosen profession.

But here’s a more interesting question. Who DOESN’T have some form of conflict in a legislature made up of citizens? Would bankers and insurance agents have a conflict because the legislature votes on banking and insurance regulations? Would manufacturers, retailers, business owners and all employees have a conflict because the legislature deals with labor issues? Newspaper reporters, radio announcers and media personnel- would they have a conflict because the legislature deals with first amendment issues? Would mothers and fathers have a conflict in serving because the legislature constantly deals with children’s issues? Pick any profession, there’s a bill in the legislature that deals with it. So Ron, what’s your real issue?

Joe Benning

State Senator

Caledonia District

Lyndonville, Vt.

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(1) comment

James Nagle

Barristers, like Editors In Chief, were once the champions of Liberty and front line defenders of our Constitutions. Oh for their triumphant return to the defense of Liberty. Our Constitution is the one true force of unity that needs to be lifted up, not forces of division. Our enemies seek to divide us. Let our Constitution be the guide we never abandon and serve us as a force of unity that will lead us to tranquility and prosperity.

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