Panel in Vann Center discusses ethics in legal services

Colleen Karlovich

Staff Writer

On September 22, the Vann Center for Ethics hosted a panel discussing “Ethics in Legal Services.” Present were Calvin Murphy ‘70, a retiree of the North Carolina Superior Courts, Henderson Hill, Faith Fickling, and Ted Filette. Ron Gibson ’74, the President of the North Carolina Bar, moderated the event.

The discussion began with a definition of ethics as “moral conduct,” which encompassed the ideas of delivery of justice and legal aid or absence thereof. Gibson posed questions regarding the cost of legal and counseling services and the lack of monetary resources that the legal system is currently experiencing. Afterwards, he gave a brief introduction about each of the members of the panel.  Filette works at a legal services office in Charlotte where he has been a member of their team for over 42 years; he works to ensure fair access of legal services to all, specifically focusing on landlord- tenet laws. Fickling is a supervising attorney who has worked with low-income domestic violence victims. Hill is an executive for the 8th Amendment Project, a movement to abolish the death penalty in all states. Judge Murphy worked for a private practice as a criminal defense attonrey for 25 years, served on the Superior Court for several years, and then served in the corporate business court. He also served as the President of the North Carolina Bar and has held three terms on the Davidson Board of Trustees.

Following introductions, the participants all had the opportunity to share their opinions of “Ethics in Legal Services” and how they experience morals and values on a day-to-day basis. Overall, each spoke about the “broken” nature of the legal system and the absence of means that they all have experienced in their careers. Absence of means symbolizes different things, according to each speaker: absence of proper funding, absence of enough legal aid lawyers, and absence of hard-working lawyers across the board. Henderson called for a complete “reworking” of the legal system that would offer more rehabilitated programs for incarcerated persons because each of these people “can’t be employed, are ripped away from family, and are serving a sentence that is really lifelong”.

After the open remarks, there was a question posed regarding whether each of the panel members were optimistic about the possibility of a solution. Every participant responded affirmatively. The most prominent solution was our generation– in the sense that we, as a community, are interested in social change and delving deeper into issues rather than just relying on the surface level of what we’ve been told by newspapers, teachers, or social media.  As said by Fickling, “It’s up to you to hold your elected officials accountable… It’s up to the community to be involved in that [election process] and make a change”.

Overall, the members of the panel were informative, wise, and optimistic about the future of the legal system. Despite the lack of monetary funds and lawyers, they believed that our generation, in collaboration with the elder one, could truly make a difference in the legal system.

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