Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION LXXI.: OF INJUSTICE ON THE PART OF COUNSEL AT LAW. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION LXXI.: OF INJUSTICE ON THE PART OF COUNSEL AT LAW. - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2) 
Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas. A Translation of the Principal Portions of the Second part of the Summa Theologica, with Notes by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (London: Burns and Oates, 1892).
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OF INJUSTICE ON THE PART OF COUNSEL AT LAW.
Article I.—Is counsel bound to take up the case of poor clients?
R. Taking up the case of poor clients is a work of mercy, and we must speak of it as of other works of mercy. Now no one has it in his power to do works of mercy to all the needy. And therefore, as Augustine says, “Since you cannot help all, you should look to those especially who are as it were allotted to you, and bound to you by time, place, or other circumstance bringing them in your way.” He mentions place, because a man is not bound to traverse the earth seeking needy people to help; but it is enough if he does the work of mercy to those who come in his way. He further mentions time, because a man is not bound to provide for another’s future need, but it is enough if he relieves his present necessity. He adds the mention of other circumstances, because a man ought especially to bestow his care on those who are related to him by any tie of kindred. Still, when these conditions concur, it further remains to be considered, whether the necessity that the distressed party is in be such as not to admit of ready apparent relief from any other quarter: if such it be, you are bound to do the work of mercy to him. Otherwise, if there is an appearance of possible relief for him, either by his own exertions, or by some other person more closely tied to him than you are, or better able, you are not absolutely bound under pain of sin to relieve his distress; though if you do relieve him without such absolute obligation, your generosity is to be commended. Hence counsel is not always bound to take up the case of the poor, but only when there is a concurrence of the aforesaid conditions: otherwise a man would have to drop all other business, and spend all his energies on helping out poor men’s cases. The same is to be said of a doctor as regards his attendance upon the poor.
Article III.—Does a lawyer sin by defending an unjust cause?
R. It is unlawful for any one to co-operate in the doing of evil, whether by counsel or aid or any manner of consent, because he who lends counsel and aid is in a manner the doer; and the Apostle says: “They are worthy of death, not only that do evil, but also that consent to them that do it.”1 Hence all such persons are bound to restitution. But clearly a lawyer lends both aid and counsel to him whose cause he takes up. Hence if he knowingly defends an unjust cause, without doubt he sins grievously, and is bound to restitution of the loss that the other side incurs unjustly through his aid. But if he defends an unjust cause in ignorance, thinking it to be just, he is excused to the extent that ignorance is excusable.
§ 2. If a lawyer in the beginning has believed a cause to be just, and afterwards as the procedure goes on it comes out to be clearly unjust, he ought not to betray the cause; that is, he ought not to help the other side, or reveal to the other the secrets of his own client. But he can throw up the case, and ought to do so, or induce his client to yield, or to compromise the matter without loss to the other party.1
Article IV.—Is it lawful for a lawyer to take money for his pleading?2
R. A man may justly take a fee for services that he is not bound to render. Now a lawyer is not always bound to plead or give advice in other men’s causes. And therefore if he sells his pleading or advice, he does not act against justice. And the case is the same with a doctor giving his aid to a patient, and with all such personages, provided their fees are moderate, considering the condition of persons and affairs and labour, and the custom of the country.
§ 2. Though legal knowledge is a spiritual gift, yet use of it is made by bodily work; and therefore it is lawful to take money in return for it: otherwise no artificer could lawfully gain by his art.
[1 ]Romans i. 32.
[1 ](1) A criminal cause, where the client is guilty, is not an unjust cause.
[2 ]There was a notion once current, that to sell the fruit of the mind, being the sale of a spiritual thing, was simony. (Trl.)