Edited by Costanza A. Russo, Rosa M. Lastra and William Blair
Chapter 9: Ethical considerations in the representation of sovereign clients
Identifying the client in a sovereign engagement raises issues of fundamental political philosophy. In particular, it calls into question the relationship of a government to its citizens and what duties, if any, are owed by one generation of citizens to succeeding generations. This chapter addresses various questions a lawyer is faced with when dealing with a sovereign client. Among those: the question of ‘which citizens?’, the existing body of citizens or future citizens as well. May a lawyer ethically assist a Government in borrowing so much money that successor generations of citizens in the country must either default on the repayment of those loans or significantly impair their own standard of living in order to honour the debts? In the sovereign context, is it better to assist a repugnant regime in a project that benefits the current citizens of the country but which will tend to perpetuate the tenure of the regime? Or is the moral choice to withhold assistance today, even if it means increasing the suffering of the incumbent citizens, in order to hasten the day when they and their successors can throw off the incubus. Finally, accepting that some degree of government corruption exists in most countries, what are the ethical implications for lawyers seeking to advise those sovereign clients?
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