Daredevil the Series is nearly here. Finally: a lawyer who is a super-hero. Many geeks, and geeky lawyers, will be binge-watching Netflix starting on April 10, 2015.
Heck, Jessica and I would love to be extras if the producers need opposing counsel at a depo or a hearing in season 2.
The big question: Can Matt Murdock be disbarred for being a vigilante? Yes, one can argue it is very creative pro bono work. Moreover, who are others to judge how Matt Murdock does his community service?
Well, for one, the state of New York. Matt Murdock is a [fictional] licensed attorney in New York, so the state bar has specific rules of professional conduct.
An attorney can be suspended from the practice of law, censured, or removed from office, if the attorney is “guilty of professional misconduct, malpractice, fraud, deceit, crime or misdemeanor, or any conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.” NY CLS Jud § 90(2).
A lawyer who is convicted of a felony will cease to be an attorney or competent to practice law in New York. NY CLS Jud § 90(4)(a) and (4)(e).
If Daredevil were arrested, unmasked, and ultimately convicted for assaulting criminals, would that be a felony that would disbar Matt Murdock?
That answer is YES. Assault in the second degree is a class D felony in New York. Matt Murdock would be guilty if he 1) intentionally causes serious physical injury to another person or third person; or 2) intentionally causes injury to a person or third person by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. NY CLS Penal § 120.05(1) and (2).
Seeking out Kingpin’s thugs to engage in combat would definitely be assault.
Why would a Court disbar Matt Murdock for conducting what he thinks is his civic duty? Because lawyers are supposed to uphold the law, not break it. As New York Judge Vito Titone stated in a case with an prosecutor who abused his power:
A person charged with or suspected of the most heinous of crimes is still entitled to the fundamental fairness encompassed by the notion of due process. “Vigilante Justice” is abhorrent to our concept of jurisprudence whether the end product be a body dangling from a rope, or a person charged with a crime as a result of lawless conduct on the part of an overzealous prosecutor. The latter indeed is reprehensible since both society and the accused are victimized by one sworn to uphold the law.
People v. Rao (App.Div. 1980) 73 A.D.2d 88, 100 citing People v Isaacson, 44 NY2d 511, p 524.
Lawyers are not supposed to take the law in their own hands. Granted, this would make a TV show (or comic) about a blind ninja lawyer with super radar senses extremely boring. Moreover, Matt Murdock has no fear of the rules of professional conduct, because he is after all Daredevil.
So Daredevil, we look forward to you doing justice on Netflix.