Anyone, man, woman, boy, or girl, who loves their father and idolises him as a hero, cannot help but be moved to tears by the narrative of Scout Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.
It is a narrative of a ten year old girl, frustrated by having a father who is somewhat elderly compared to the other fathers, and therefore slower and less able to play with his children.
She narrates the story, mostly, from the start onward, naive and oblivious to the high regard her father, Atticus, is held in by their fellow townspeople, who insist in him representing him (unpaid of course) in the state legislature, amongst other things. To her, he is just older and slower. She does not see any greatness in him.
Yet through her oblivious narrative, the greatness of Atticus Finch as a true hero gradually emerges as layer after layer is pealed away. For me, it starts at the point where she observes that the townspeople ask Atticus, as the man regarded as the surest shot in town, to shoot a rabid dog dead. I remember that vividly from when I saw the film at age nine, let alone from when I read the novel, many years later.
At that point, Atticus is just showing a hint of his heroism, the tip of an iceberg, prowess without the principle. But this is just the first hint, seen through the eyes of a ten year old girl, that her father is more than just a useless boring old man.
Not long after that, when the victim of the story, an innocent black man, is falsely accused of rape, where the entire town clamours for southern ‘justice’, is when the heroism that is inherent to Atticus Finch emerges. He gathers his children and he tells them that despite the town being against it, it is is his duty to represent someone in a criminal trial. He makes it very clear that this might be the most important thing that he does in his career, and that he is doing it for their sakes.
This is the moment where, whether Scout realises it or not, her father steps out from being a respected village elder and becomes greater than anyone in the entire county (or perhaps the country). He becomes the embodiment of the Rule of Law, the representative champion of due process.
Ultimately, Atticus is defeated in court, and his client is destroyed in the prison system. But that Atticus, the elder of the village, is prepared to stand up and speak for the falsely accused is important. He knows that he will probably lose when he does so, but he knows that something more important will be lost if he remains silent: the Rule of Law. For a father, as Atticus is, that is more important than the potential hostility his children may feel from fellow townspeople expressing resentment to them for his defence of a black man.
Whilst Scout does not, as a ten year old, understand this, she is an honest and truthful witness to the deeds and decency of her father.
It is all fiction, but fiction does set us examples to live up to. I have been told that Atticus Finch has been cited in some Victorian law schools as an example of the standard of ethics to which lawyers should aspire.
Today, we learn in the news that Nicola Gobbo, the Lawyer Formerly Known As X, got a first class honours in legal ethics at the University of Melbourne and even wanted to do a Masters degree on legal ethics.
What do we take away from this? That legal ethics is something that you can rout learn and recite parrot like in an exam, rather than live and feel and be moved about?
Everyone, thanks to Magna Carta, is entitled to Due Process of the Law under Anglophonic legal systems. This is one of the major things that makes Anglophonic societies more successful than other societies in Western Civilisation or anywhere else. People have rights, including to a fair trial and to independent representation.
That Nicola Gobbo, expert in legal ethics, was prepared to betray her oath to the court and her commitments to her clients and become a police informer is particularly heinous. It represents a conspiracy between herself and senior members of the Victoria Police to pervert the course of justice and undermine the Rule of Law in this state.
It does not matter that her clients were people generally regarded as heinous, such as Carl Williams and Tony Mokbel. Those people deserve a fair trial, and competent representation. That they were denied this through a conspiracy involving senior police officers and their own barrister means that the Rule of Law has been eroded. This needs to be further investigated, and addressed, and the people involved sanctioned.
The most serious crime is not whether people have been unfairly or unjustly convicted. The most serious crime is that the Rule of Law in the State of Victoria has been seriously compromised by those who are meant to protect it. They deserve to now face the full force of the Law, including gaol time, if it is so found to be deserved.
For someone like Nicola Gobbo, who has claimed to be on the side of the Law whilst having a long standing history of using it to be self serving from her earliest days of being a law graduate, I just wonder whether she was simply able to rout learn and tick off multiple choice quiz answers to pass legal ethics. It is just as well that Atticus Finch is a fictional creation – he seems too good to be true.