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In today’s episode we examine the life and heroic death of Thomas More and why his example is so necessary for lawyers in our times. To many, the martyrs, those who go willingly to their death for a matter of faith, must be clinically insane. Thomas More seemed to have it all: a wonderful and wealthy wife, beautiful children who he had close relationships with, money, political power, friends in high places, etc. Yet he gave it all up to go to prison and ultimately die by beheading. Why? Because the Truth was ultimately at the center of Thomas’ life. More died because he would not acknowledge Henry VIII as the head of the Church of England and Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn as sacramental valid. This stance was political suicide (and ultimately led to More’s actual physical death); for many this stance would seem insane for a man who had it all. But More, like all the martyrs, was one of the few people in his society that was seeing things clearly. More had his priorities straight. 

Highlights:

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James discusses how we as defense attorneys claim the moral high ground and thereby change the public perception of the criminal defense bar
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Why we need lawyer heroes as examples in our quest for the moral high ground
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Discussion of why a man who had it all (Thomas More) would throw it all away over a seemingly insignificant political statement
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A look at how Thomas More had his priorities straight and why we need to adopt the same strategy in our personal lives
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A reading of the Prayer to St. Thomas More

Transcript:

Episode 10 Transcript
Jake Minick:
Hello, fellow freedom fighters and welcome to another episode of the NC DWI Guy podcast. One of the goals of this podcast is to change the public perception of criminal defense lawyers. One way we do that is to stand on the moral high ground. It is, I think, the public perception that criminal defense attorneys are not on the moral high ground, that the prosecution, the state, the police stand on the moral high ground.

We as criminal defense attorneys need to reclaim the moral high ground and that isn’t something that we just do externally by saying the right things in public, by working with the right movements. It is something that happens internally and we need good examples of people, good examples of lawyers who have stood on the moral high ground.

On June the 22nd, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of St. Thomas More and Thomas More is one of the patron saints of lawyers and a person to look to for standing the moral high ground. The reason why Thomas More fundamentally is a person to look to for his moral fiber is because Thomas More had his priorities straight. He wanted to serve his king. He wanted to serve his country, but he wanted to serve God first and when laws and ordinances from his king and from his country were contrary to God’s law, that’s where he took a stand. That is where he said, “I cannot follow down this line.”

Now everybody has their difficulties, their struggles, but before his falling out with the king, King Henry VIII, Thomas More appeared to have everything in the eyes of society. He had four children with his first wife before she died. He remarried and functionally adopted several other children. He loved his children very much. He educated his children, both the boys and the girls and education of girls was not necessarily the norm at the time, but he wanted the best for his children. He wrote them letters when he was away on business or away with the king.

He loved his kids. He loved his family. He was fortunate enough to marry a friend for his second marriage who also was a relatively wealthy lady and had a very good estate. He had a good practice in terms of his legal skills. Of course, became the Chancellor of England. He had high political status. He was financially well-off, great financial status. Had everything in terms of political connections going for him and had a good family life and had a good relationship with his savior.

From the outside world, again, who knows what the day-to-day dynamics were for Thomas More, what things he was struggling with, what frustrations he was dealing with, the grief of the loss of his first wife, who knows what was going on in his mind day-to-day. But from the outside world, he had everything. To many people, his decision to stand against the King of England when the king wanted to be declared the head of the church and when the king wanted to annul his first marriage, to the outside world for many, this was clearly political suicide, but it was also physical suicide. People knew what would happen to you if you stood against the King of England, people knew what would happen to you if you stood against the king.

But Thomas More had his priorities straight. He had a hierarchy of goods and as important as family was, as important as it was to be financially secure, as important as it was to serve his king and to have political power, none of those things were higher than his relationship with the truth. The truth is not some relative abstract concept or words to Thomas More. To Thomas More truth was a person, Jesus Christ. It was to that truth, it was to that person that Thomas More directed his life. For Thomas More, Jesus Christ to be truth was not just a part of his life. It wasn’t just a piece of the pie. The truth was the fundamental center of Thomas More and everything that he lived and stood for.

That is why when Thomas More went to his execution, he could honestly say, as it has been reported that he said, “I am the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” Thomas More had his priorities straight and that is how we can achieve the moral high ground, by having our priorities straight, by having our priorities in the right order. That’s how we do it. We have to have a list of priorities to gain the moral high ground and again, to therefore change the public perception of criminal defense lawyers.

This is a prayer that I say frequently at my desk before I go to court, before I start the work day, something that I prayed with the team many times, because I think it is just not only a great prayer, because it is a great prayer, but it is a great way to start the day as a criminal defense attorney.

Here is the prayer to St. Thomas More. Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints, pray that for the glory of God and in the pursuit of his justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries and ever attentive to conscience.

Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my client’s tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you, friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence and duties, counsel and adversity, patience and pain. They’re a good servant and God’s first. Amen. St. Thomas More, patron saint of lawyers, pray for us.