Applied ethics - A public defender application.

Essay by rscrimoUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, November 2005

download word file, 8 pages 4.2

Downloaded 54 times

Logical Fallacies.

I - Hasty Generalization

"All the kids in this neighborhood are thugs, they've all committed some crime; they should all be thrown in jail."

"We women have to stick together is this male oriented job."

The first quote is a hasty generalization fallacy made by the storeowner. He makes an illogical assumption that all the neighborhood kids are criminals probably based off of other bad experiences with local youths. The second quote also generalizes that if women don't stick together the men will eat them alive. These are forms of stereotyping lacking much needed reasoning to become true one hundred percent of the time.

II - Questionable Claim

"If only I hadn't spilled the salt!"

This is an example of a questionable claim fallacy. Jessie uses an old spilt salt superstition as justification for why her dream job ended up a mess. In reality, the same issues would still be relevant to her problem if she had not spilled any salt.

III - Inconsistency

" be smart, keep your mouth shut and get the job done quickly. Oh, and remember, even though this is how things run, we still have to "act" like we care."

"I am sure she will be one of the best. We have already had a great discussion and I told her that thoroughness and caring for our clients is our number one concern.

The preceding two statements are prime examples of the inconsistency fallacy. She tells Jessie flat out to plea bargain the case and act like she is doing the best job regardless of Oliver's innocence, whereas she leads Oliver to believe they are doing what is best for him. Inconsistency is used to please one or more sides as a means of an easy way out of a situation.

IV - Is/Ought Confusion

"At our office everyone feels this way. If you plan to be one of us, you better too."

- Page 1 -

"Plea-bargaining is the way we always do it to get the job done."

Both of the above statements follow the is/ought confusion fallacy. The basis of these claims state that something is correct only because it is the way it has always been done or the way it is.

V - Two Wrongs Make a Right

"These people have no money, they don't matter; jail is a luxury to them."

Terry uses the two wrongs make a right fallacy to justify it being right to send potentially innocent people to jail. They don't have money and they don't matter to me so we can generalize these people to be great candidates for jail conditions.


Jessie has dedicated over seven years of schooling to preparing herself to serve those who cannot afford an expensive attorney for representation. Her first case involves a young defendant named Oliver that appears to be innocent. She is overloaded with cases, and she does not have the time to prove his innocence. If she does take the time to get Oliver off the hook, she will be too far behind on her other cases and lose her job. If she loses her job she will have to move back in with her parents, which will ultimately end her marriage. Terry, Jessie's boss, insist that she plea-bargain all her cases in order to stay caught up and to keep her job. If Oliver takes the plea-bargain he will have a criminal record, he is sure to lose his job, and his family will probably end up on the streets. Jessie has some important factors to consider.

Thinking Through the Options.

Possible options:

- Jessie could take the time to prove Oliver's innocence but at the cost of losing her job and most likely her husband and home.

- Jessie can appease her boss by plea-bargaining her cases and acting like she is doing the best job she can for each client. She will keep her job at the expense of others.

- Jessie could loan Oliver some money for an initial payment to an attorney who has the time to prove his innocence.

- Page 2 -

- Jessie can work on Oliver's case when she is off of work. This would provide a temporary solution but in doing this long term for other cases would result in the expense of losing her husband and getting behind on other cases.

- Jessie can move back in with her parents, pursue another career, and find another man.

Best options:

- Jessie could take the time to prove Oliver's innocence but at the cost of losing her job and most likely her husband and home.

- Jessie can appease her boss by plea-bargaining her cases and acting like she is doing the best job she can for each client. She will keep her job at the expense of others.

- Jessie can work on Oliver's case when she is off of work. This would provide a temporary solution but in doing this long term for other cases would result in the expense of losing her husband and getting behind on other cases.

Highlight Stakeholders.

Jessie- She has to decide what is more important to her; her career or Oliver's well being.

Terry- She will fire Jessie if she doesn't plea-bargain her cases.

Oliver- He will be falsely accused of a crime if Jessie doesn't do something.

Oliver's family- They will be caught in a tight situation if Oliver goes to jail.

Jessie's husband- He will possibly leave Jessie if they are forced into living with her parents.

Jessie's family- They will have to help support Jessie if she loses her job.

Future clients- Some will risk being falsely accused if the standards are not changed.

- Page 3 -


Immanuel Kant's Theory.

Kant's view on ethics is that it is the same for everyone, everywhere. People would not always agree on ethical matters, of course, but moral reasoning and logical thinking were universal thoughts. His message was to let everyone know that they already held the ability to ethically think for themselves. This means that we shouldn't leave ethical decisions to the authorities to decide; we already know the right thing to do inside of us. He urged for self-discipline to fight for the right thing even if it conflicts with your own personal interests.

Kantianism is known as a deontological approach to ethics. Deon means "duty" in Greek. The central idea of Kant's theory is about fulfilling ones moral duty or obligation to the world. This is simply about doing the right thing regardless of the circumstances or the outcomes. He claimed that all people are morally autonomous. This means that we are self-governed; we are control of our actions. We should not be dependent on what authorities or others tell us what is the right moral duty.

If you apply Kant's theory to Jessie's dilemma you must decide the morally right decision from Jessie's perspective. Her dream has always been to work for people who cannot afford an attorney. She has worked very hard to get this job. In Fact, she has just passed her Bar exam after 7 years of schooling. However, her personal experiences and interest need to be set aside when looking at this situation using Kantianism. The only thing that Jessie should look at is what is the morally right decision to make, leaving all her personal issues on hold. According to this theory, she should fight for Oliver's case to prove his innocence in order to fulfill her moral duty. She will likely lose a lot of important things to her at the expense of helping Oliver.

John Rawls theory of Contractarianism.

John Rawl's theory considers fairness to be the core element to an ethical society. Fairness is something everyone has known about since a very young age; furthermore, it has been known for quite some time. The Bible says, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." To practically apply this you must make decisions from no one perspective, completely unbiased. From there, you would choose the best options that is most equal and fair for everyone involved.

The problem with applying this theory into real life applications is fairness can only be considered hypothetical. Human response is generally to act in self-interests. Even if fairness is put before self-interests it is still a matter of perspective. What appears fair to one person will always seem unfair to someone else. In the perfect world, fairness could be achieved, but self-interests prevent that from really occurring.

- Page 4 -

If you apply John Rawl's theory of Contractarianism to Jessie's decision then you would first look at it from everyone's point of view. More likely than not, there isn't a solution to have the outcome remotely equal for both Jessie and Oliver. In these situations, the least advantaged person is protected. In this case, Oliver should be represented to the best of Jessie's ability to prove him innocent, regardless of what may happen to Jessie. She has family to fall back on for support, whereas if Oliver was falsely accused, him and his family would be living on the streets.


Egoism is the practice got always acting in ones perceived interests. This includes short-term interests, but is usually done for more long-term interests. There are no set rules or parameters to egoism. It can be done at the expense of others or it can be done at the expense of self, as long as self-interests is the main goal.

This may be the most commonly practiced theory in the real world. It would be easy to think that acts of kindness and caring for others would not be common in egoism but that is actually untrue. Individuals with their own long-term interests in mind are common believers in "what comes around goes around." So in other words, egoists will be kind to others so that kindness will be returned to them, and hopefully then some. This is why egoists will go to great lengths to please the rich and powerful.

For Jessie to apply an egoist approach to solving her problem, she must first consider her possible options. Second, she would evaluate the possible consequences of each option. Finally, she would decide which option is in her best interest. With these steps in mind, I believe she would choose to agree with what her boss told her to do and plea-bargain all of her cases in order to stay caught up. She would be able to keep her job, her husband, and her house. Furthermore, if she abides by the system long enough she will slowly climb the corporate ladder and become very successful at the career she has always wanted.

Choose: Wisest option

I believe Jessie's wisest option is to make a decision based off her own self-interests (egoism). She is simply not in the position to be able to help Oliver out. First off, she has spent over seven years preparing for this job. She can't lose her job, husband, and house over an innocent juvenile kid whose arrest record will be sealed as an adult anyways. Oliver's family may be poor, but like most families, they will survive without the help of their son's income.

- Page 5 -

Secondly, by her choosing to throw the case away by plea-bargaining, she will please her boss for doing what she was instructed to do. As long as she keeps it up, she will eventually be promoted.

Finally, by sacrificing a few innocent people along the way she will eventually be able to benefit a lot more people down the road. Once she is in a position of power, she may be able to hire more public defenders to closely work fewer cases. Jessie was naïve to think that she could move right into her dream job and help every single person right away. Given some time, I believe she may be able to change the standard of care and effort put into each case by public defenders.