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Is It Professionally Responsible to Be Morally Responsible?

May 13, 2017

Ella Byrd Rinehart is a real life friend. She was high school youth member of our denomination’s National Youth Ministry Organization when I was a adult member of it.

Now she’s a powerhouse attorney.

It’s with her gracious permission that I share this with you. This was a social media posting of hers one recent morning —

Ethical question for my legal colleagues:
I have an indigent client who is mentally disabled. He is high functioning with a low IQ. I took him to a doctor’s appointment today. I overheard his conversation with a relative where he was asking for $10 so he could buy something to eat because he doesn’t get his disability check until the 3rd.

Is it unethical (under the Rules of Professional Responsibility) to give him money to eat? Morally, it’s a no-brainer.

I’ve called J**** M****** with the office of General Counsel and waiting on a call back. The call may come after I leave my client, so any help now would be appreciated.

— What would you do?

Give that question another moment. Think that through.

Ramifications and implications quickly abound, as do ethical and legal guidelines.

Again, think all that through.

Have you?


After receiving much online advice from colleagues on ways to help her client without  jeopardizing or violating anything, here’s what she wrote later that same day — 

His starving belly was fed but my weary, starving soul was fed more. Thank you sweet Jesus for showing Yourself to me today.

His blessing at the table: “Thank you Jesus for this food. You always answer our prayers. I was so hungry but you gave me some food. When I need clothes somebody always gives me some. When I am sick you make me feel better. Thank you Jesus for my lawyer friend, too.”

— Did I just hear an Amen from you, too?


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One Comment
  1. Yes, you did hear an Amen! You also heard a rattling sound that was my head nodding throughout.

    Did you know that I briefly toyed with the idea of getting a degree in Social Work? (If I had known then what I know now….another story, another time.) I took the first required class in a semester filled with other precursors to actual degrees.It was a tumultuous class for me and I got a B. I am sure though that the professor was more than glad to be rid of me as I challenged almost every “ethic” presented that just put the victim back in danger, “in my opinion”. When I left the final, I went looking for the Social Work Advisor. I told her I was dropping out of the program (there are courses you must take in the order given, the one I took, first one, would not be given until the following fall again, I would miss classes the spring semester as they wouldn’t be offered for another year as the classes rotated.), I knew I was vacating a position another student could have had, but I was passionate about my reasons and those reasons were that I couldn’t morally work within the “ethical” system that would restrain me. On a social worker’s salary, I would not have been able to support my own children and help every one of the ones I would meet, so I abdicated, I dropped the ball, I shot myself in the foot, and I wonder sometimes if in avoiding ethical lines, I crossed a few/lot of moral ones and missed out on a few face-to-face encounters with Jesus.


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