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That there is a wide discrepancy between the law and first class ethical principles is the general assumption of the lay public and the not infrequent admission of the legal profession. The layman speaks of one's actions as being "just within the law," and the inference therefrom is not ildisguised. It is meant to be anything but complimentary. It immediately suggests that the person indicated is unscrupulous and derelict in his duty, as measured by the ethical canon of the speaker. It is, in fact, the frequent aspersion cast upon the law that the moral principles of our jurisprudence constitute no worthy pattern of conduct for the decent, self-respecting citizen. In short, the failure of the law to coincide with what is generally conceded to represent the highest moral doctrine of the time and place, is assumed to be the shortcoming of the law. High minded men pride themselves upon the breadth of the margin between their conduct and that upon which the law fixes its penalty, and he who is content to comply only with the letter of the law, incurs their righteous indignation and just censure.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Ethical Basis of the Law of Defamation, 31 Dickinson Law Review 63 (1926)