Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lawful? - LAW AND ETHICS FOLLOW UP QUESTION!

This question was posted by Oliver, and it seems to get at the heart of the issue. Please respond by Friday, Jan. 30. (Thanks, Oliver. You are officially "done" with your assingment.)

This came up during a discussion about the Seminar homework...

If we break the law to uphold it, what message does that send? Ultimately, does it do more harm than good?

As always, justify...

128 comments:

Don Park said...

If we break the law to uphold it, what message does that send? Ultimately, does it do more harm than good?

In theory, it does more harm than good. A Law is there because it has reasons to be there. If every time a law was bent in order to do "something good" that would destroy the point of Law itself!

Ultimately, the outcome is a positive one. But this doesn't justify the means of actually committing the act itself. This reminds me of a recent Coloradoan article talking about how CSU Police actually drug dealing in order to catch dealers. The CSU chief actually did get suspended for that action. Honestly, I believe "breaking the law" to do the better good should be used sparingly and most of the time they should follow by the book.

Ali said...

Principle of utility all the way... eithical principles, and whether the good outweighs the bad.

Fred said...

I don't know. Yes, I think it hurts the face of the law, but I also think that there are some situations where doing something that goes against the oath one has taken, or something that goes against the law one protects... However, I do not see that these things should go unpunished. I do understand that there are some laws that, in a given case, are ridiculous and potentially harmful if followed, but if they are meaningful in other cases, then they should be retained, and those who break them should be punished, just like the rest of them. That is civil disobedience. I don't think they should be punished as harshly, personally, but then again, if exceptions are allowed, then the law will begin to fall apart. Law must be rigid, and if something is broken, even with the best of intentions, consequences must follow.

Sorry to seem like such a Nazi, but if you think about it, there really is no other way. I'm not particularly happy about this, and I do not say this in support of unjust laws. But when there is a good law, like lawyers cannot lie, and it is broken, even for others' protection, standards must be kept. Otherwise, it would set a dangerous precedent, and more people would plead that case as an excuse and the profession would become even more corrupt than it already seems. No good deed goes unpunished, eh? [humorless laugh, sad smile.]

Also, who on earth is "Stitch"?

Fred said...

"Stitches". My apologies.

justina said...

My agreement goes in part to Don and in part to Fred.

Where we see it as "the end justifies the means" it is logical. Where we see it as "breaking the law to get the bad guy to turn himself in" it is partially illogical. If we see it in the light of "breaking the law to stop someone else from breaking it" it becomes redundant and mindboggling as to how something like that can be allowed.

Yes, if you remove a murderer from the streets (second case) it is a good thing. But it doesn't justify the impersonation of a PD by a law enforcement officer, albeit he is an ex-attorney. So where does this leave us? The only solid thing is the law, and we must enforce it or lose all reason in the world of justice. Here i say that it is perfectly acceptable to punish the transgressor, despite their possible status as an enforcer of that very same justice. (and if they're an enforcer, shouldn't they be all for civil disobedience anyway??)There definitely exist some situations where the only solution is morally and lawfully wrong. However, if inaction (and the continuation of that situation) is the greater of the two evils, it is arguably justified. With due punishment, because no one is above the law, ultimately.

Ry Barney said...

It is naive to think that the law can only be upheld by following it strictly. I do beleive that in some cases, true "justice" can only come with breaking a few laws. The idea of laws is to keep the people safe and in control. However, when idividuals are either harming others or harming themselves, and not necessarily breaking the law, it is sometimes acceptable to break the law, in order to bring that person to justice. There is an excellent movie that came out some years ago called "Sling Blade", with Billy Bob Thorton. This is an excellent example of what I'm trying to say, and i encourage many of you to watch it. However, this also raises the question of, if you agree with my opinion, who gets to decide when it is necessary to break laws in order to achieve justice?

-Ryan Barney

Rick_Andrews_Director said...

I agree with Don. If we break the law in order to uphold the law, that almost is a "For the Greater Good" concept. It sends a message that it doesn't matter what laws you break or what terrible things you do commit, it's okay as long as the outcome it alright. A very Machiavellian approach, I must say, but I don't think "The ends justify the means" is a very smart way to enforce the law.

However, then you also need to take into account the Ethical Principle of Utility. Sometimes, you have to break the law because it will do the most amount of good, such as with the Paulter (or is it Pautler?) case. Paulter broke the law because he realized the most good would come from it.

When answering such a question we always need to take into account the context of the event. Although there will be exceptions, I think it does more harm than good to break the law in order to uphold it.

Rick_Andrews_Director said...

Oh, and for clarification, the post right above this one was written by Rick Andrews. Sorry, forgot to sign my name...

Shellie said...

This is a rather interesting thought. Personally, I have a very utilitarian view, and in the long run, if breaking the law creates a net beneficial gain, by all means, go ahead and break the law. But then we also have to look at what kinds of laws we are talking about here. If the law is something like stealing, whatever. It's really not that huge of a deal. But if it is something like killing a person, then what do we do? The action of killing is wrong, no matter which way you look at it. But then, it is just to kill one person to save the lives of a thousand? I don't want to sound like a horrible person with no morals, but if the end result is going to be good, then I think the law needs to be broken. Laws never stopped people from breaking them before anyways. ;)

vishnu said...

The law is there for a reason and it should be followed by all, but in some cases if it means breaking to law to provide justice, I would agree that its a good thing to do. If someone was to break the law for personal gain, like stealing, there would be dire consequences which they deserve. If one was to break the law to uphold, I agree that the individual should be recognized for his/her good deed. I think that the message they would be sending is that truth and justice will always come out on top, its only a matter of time. But if there are people who are constantly breaking the law to try to amend it, in my opinion, that would only create more problems than solutions. It also depends on each person, some might think it is good to break the law every time if the law doesn't provide justice, and others might think that no law can or should be broken.

Anna said...

I like what Justina said about “the end justifying the means” as a logical reason to break the law. Many people are not afraid to go against the conventions of society if they believe their actions will be highly beneficial to the masses. However, they ought to still be punished for their actions as to not set a misleading example for other community members. It seems to me that if one’s justifications are strong enough, the threat of breaking the law will never be enough to stop them. Depending on the deed in question, I believe that if it upholds the ethical principles (especially that of no harm, beneficence, and utility), it can be justified in the eye of society.

Lauren P said...

Im sorry ahead of time to not completely be answering the question, but I think topics such as these can't se seen in black and white.
In my opinion there is no one true answer to this question, for harm can be prevented, or added to, depending on the situation. In case 2, I think harm was actually caused by breaking the law. When Paulter impersonated a PD how created mistrust with Neal, wich also hurt his lawyer too, when Neal finally got one. I'm sure, though it seemed like a good idea at the time, it just made the case even harder for the lawyer that was assigned to Neal. If it causes an inconvinience for someone who is working for the law, then it causes more harm than good.
On the other hand, I'm sure there are cases in which breaking the law (while accepting the consequences,) would lead to good. For instance, there have been times where breaking into a house without a warrant has lead to catching criminals that would otherwise have had enough time to escape.
All in all it becomes a sticky buisness when you have to weigh what is more good, and what is more harmfull. "The ends justify the means." But where is the line drawn at "justified?"

SamanthaJo said...

I think it is inevitable that many laws will change. The framers of the Constitution must have believed this as well, for even they put systems in place to change laws and amend the Constitution. A lot of the time, for the official changing of the law to occur, it must be called to the attention of others as to why the law ought to be changed. Civil disobedience is the ideal method to bring attention to the issue while living with the consequences of the law. Someone accepting punishment for a 'crime' that he or she believes is justified has a much greater impact than someone committing a crime and attempting to evade punishment.

Whether or not breaking a law does more harm than good depends a lot on the crime. If breaking the law involves breaking an ethical code, such as causing harm to others, it would probably not have many good effects. Also, the effects would probably be different in the short term than in the long term. To point out an overused example, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington broke the law and he accepted his punishment. In the short term, it was just another march and people were probably frustrated with the lack of success of their efforts. In the long term, however, the march is seen as a major stepping stone for civil rights. There are certain laws that must be broken to move the nation forward and update the laws to our modern standards, but not every law can be broken or chaos would ensue. The long term and short term effects must be taken into account to analyze whether or not the law-breaking had a positive or negative impact.

kgibbs said...

I would say that it almost always turns out good/okay. Usually it means that either the law needs to change and in this case the breaking provides good social pressure to change it. Or that it was extenuating circumstances and then if the person choose well the outcome will be good. Nothing ever has a perfect result, and is special circumstances people may be caught between a rock and a hard place so to say. For example in the second case. We should remember that the laws are generally sound if often excessive, and it should be looked carefully at before any action to break well established laws are taken.

kgibbs said...

That would be by Kyle Gibbs.

Drivebracket said...

All I can do is repeat my earlier comment. One cannot break the law to uphold it, the law, in order to be worthy of being followed, in order to be recognized as legitimate in any way, must adhere to itself. Must. There are no two ways about it. Were law able to defy itself then in doing so it would void all law. For instance, if the law said that something as trivial as wearing hats was wrong and bad, and therefore illegal, but the keepers of that law went ahead and wore hats while they executed their duty, or at any point even, who would want to follow that law? If a man came up to you with a hat on, and arrested you for wearing a hat, what does that inply? In that case that would be a false law, and any system that spawned such a law and allowed it to be abused in such a manner would, by extension, be pulled into question. Ultimately it does a tremendously greater amount of bad than it does good. Any such action makes our entire law system suspect. The law, by its very nature, must be without exception or pity, becuase anything less would affect its ability to govern and regulate us with any form of consistency or legitimacy.

I don't mean to sound extreme, but that is how it must be, any case, any at all, that is not followed through with the utmost attention to and respect for due process brings with it, as Fred said, an extremely dangerous precedent.
-David Hodson

SusieP said...

I think it is hypocritical to break the law to punish those who have broken the law already. However, if you are breaking the law for the “greater good” then I understand the justification. Still, there is a fine line between the moralities of such actions. Like Shellie said, is it just to kill one person to save thousands? I also agree with Ryan that the purpose of having laws is to keep people safe and prevent crime. So, is it just to break the law to keep people safe? It is not okay to break the law for a negative or unethical reason, but should it be okay to break the law for a good reason? I guess it just depends on the extent of the situation and therefore, there is no correct answer to this question.

Simone S. said...

I agree with what many people have said - that breaking a law to answer to a higher ethical code or ideal can have good consequences, such as calling to attention the ethics of a law. As laws are broken, they are re-evaluated and ammended to fit more specific situations. Overall, this refines the law, making it better representative of the society's values, at least that's what this process aims to do.
I think the ethical principle of beneficence would be at work when a person breaks a law to uphold a new law. Maximizing the good may not be winning on all fronts at the time. The person would have to accept the consequences for breaking the law. However in the long run this would call attention to the law and facilitate re-evaluation and ammendment, thereby doing good for future society. And so I think ultimately that if a law is broken to uphold a higher ethical ideal or code, good can come of it.

ZoeW said...

I agree that breaking the law to uphold it can go both ways in terms of the type of message it sends. However, I think more of a question lies in what should happen to the person that breaks the law to uphold it? If you think about it a person who breaks the law not for the sake of upholding it (aka drug dealer) gets a punishment for what they've done. So should an undercover police officer who deals drugs to catch this major drug dealer get the same punishment? While he is doing something illegal, isn't it small compared to catching the real criminal who knows no bounds and wouldn't stop like the undercover cop could. I think it comes down to judging not what message is sent but how should the two categories of people who break the law be treated. After all, a law is made so that if it is broken someone gets punished...but is it ethical to put the two types of "lawbreakers" on the same level?
Zoƫ

Keelym said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Keelym said...

Laws are created in order to maintain a functional society,and must be followed. However, there are those laws in which you should really do the right thing that you believe is right, not necessarily what the law states. If this "law" isn't very ethical or for any reason many people don't believe in it, it probably should be changed or looked at again. And by making that stand and doing what you believe is right could turn the heads of people that believe the same as you do.
I'm not saying or encouraging breaking the law, but I strongly believe you should ultimately do what you think is right no matter the circumstances.
~Keely Miller

kirsten said...

i think that it depends on the situation in which the law is broken. in the second case that mr. jostad had us look at, i believe that most people would seem to see that his breaking of the law was done for a purpose and the message that was sent was that the man cared more about the murder victims (upholding the "don't murder" law) than his own career that said he musn't lie. i think that it's just a question of what people think is "ethical". the more people who think that something is ethical, the more it will be accepted, generally.

kirsten said...

i don't think that it does much harm because if there really is a problem with the law breaker and what they did then the system of courts will tend to that and what is seen to be fit will be done.

tucker said...

i think this question is pretty simple. kind of. in my mind it is. the law is there for a reason. it needs to be followed to serve that purpose, if people feel like breaking it and justify because they believe it to be right, that kind of overrules the point of the law. it reminds me of a law and order that i was watching the other day...a guy was convicted of murder and whether or not he was going to be put on death row was still in question. the guy escaped and killed two more people. the father of one of the victims then killed him. since he was already going to be put on death row, does it justify the father killing the murderer? no. Atleast i don't think so. (ps, this may not be exactly what happened in the episode, i didn't see the beginning). basically what it comes down to for me is whether or not the ends justify the means, and i believe in this situation they do not.

tucker said...

oh, and is this our assignment? who is "stitches"?

callaghan said...

If we break the law to uphold it, I do not think it sends a very postive message. I think that it is important to bring all crimnals to justice and I understand that sometimes this involves breaking the law to do so. However if government officials, etc. quickly resort to this to solve cases than that is a bad sign. We are supposed to trust these people to do the right thing but it doesn't look real good if they are willing to break the laws that we are supposed to follow and they don't even get punished. However I think that when they bend/break a law every now and then to solve a really big case and put someone away who "deserved" it than it can be okay. Overall I think it does more good, it seems like there are seldom situations where it does more harm, and if there is, they are easily dealt with.
Callghan Hendrickson

Clementine said...

The message sent by breaking the law to uphold it is a complicated one. It can be taken as meaning that you believe you are above the law (which I personally believe nobody is) and do not need to answer to authority, in which case others might get the idea that they can do the same thing without suffering consequences. A slippery slope, I know, but if one person can do it, "why not me?" (That sounded incredibly like Raskolnikov's "superman" theory...) However, another interpretation of this kind of action could be that the person breaking the law only means well and that the law, to protect those kinds of noble actions, might be changed to account for instances like the one at hand. That way, people would be safe if they only wanted to do a good thing but couldn't because the current wording of a law restricted that action.

Ultimately, I think that sometimes more good is done and sometimes more harm is. Take the example from Magistrate Jostad's presentation of Pautler and Neal: Pautler lied to bring Neal into custody, which was taking a dangerous man off the streets, but at the same time, Neal was killed for his actions, which - even in the case of a deranged criminal such as himself - is not the answer to a problem like the one he posed. It's difficult to explain...personal belief again...but I think I'm getting tripped up by the language of this quesiton. When you say "does it do more harm than good," specifically who or what it harms or helps more is not specified. Are we talking the "good" guy or the "bad" guy? This is why my answer is so open-ended.

One last thought to justify Pautler's actions: ethical principle of utility (killed one, saved who knows how many).

Selina Lujan said...

Depending on the situation, but in most cases if you break the law in the attempt of finding a resolution or doing what you feel is the right thing, can lead to more harm than good. No matter what, if you break the law you will face the consequences. Which reflects negatively on the action that was committed, in the attempt of doing the "right" thing. Even if you did not have false intentions.

whitepanda said...

This is definitely a hard thing to answer. On one hand, we want to make sure that the law is malleable to the current beliefs and accepted ideas of society, yet resolute enough to prevent the bad yet prevalent ideas of society to manifest into violence or whatever. I think that the way the US has handled this dilemma really fair because cases are put through the test of their worthiness to change the law every time they go on trial. The verdict, when challenged, is another oppurtunity to judge if a particular situation deems for a change in the law (which should be absolute in its just-ness). Ultimately, I think that the law should have a potential to be malleable, because notions of right and wrong change across generations and time and space. It will be better for society to adapt to whatever hardships may face them.

Emilly Zhu

Ben White Chocolate Olsen said...

I believe that at times it is essential for an individual to break the law in order to uphold. In normal circumstances an individual may break a minor law in order to capture and individual who is breaking a more serious law. For instance usually when someone is trying to capture a murderer they may slightly bend the rules to capture this person but they would never committ a murder themselves in order to capture this individual. This instance shows that by breaking the law to uphold did more good than it did harm.
Ben Olsen

blckpanda said...

Well... This is a bit hard to answer... But I think that it depends on the situation. Like Kirsten said, I think it kind of depends on what is ethical or not. If breaking the law justifies that it will bring greater good to the society, then it might be better to break the law.
But also, like everyone said, i think there would be more harm when breaking the law and there are consequences too. I mean... laws are created to bring order and right into the society... what other reasons are there?
eh...
Sun Joo

tymyshu said...

It really depends on a case by case basis. Their are some instances where it could do more good to break the law. The case with Pautler is a good example. While it could potentially cause other people to break the law (because if Pautler can do it, I can do it), I believe that it ultimately caused more good than harm, because it brought in a dangerous criminal off the streets.

I think that sane, reasonable people would only break the law in order to protect something that was of greater importance to them than said law.

- Kellan

Minny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Minny said...

I think Lauren P brings up a good point in saying that it isn't something black and white; What does it mean if something is justified? The word "justified" could mean something different to everyone. I understand that someone, like Pautler, may have broken the law to save future victims from being killed--it was done with good intentions, but was it justified that he lied to Neal and didn't tell him the truth? Although Pautler achieved what he wanted--Neal's confession--his actions made it difficult for Neal because Neal would not trust anybody else. Pautler's actions brought some good, but it also brought some harm as well. This goes against the ethics principle of autonomy: Pautler didn't let Neal confess by his own decisions, but decieved him so that he would confess.

Eric Yin-Yang said...

Like what the magistrate said, one important way of achieving justice is breaking unjust laws to reveal to people the discrepancies between moral justice and unjust laws. Civil disobedience is an extremely important mechanism for bringing about societal development for the better. In the majority of cases where people have to break the law in order to uphold it, the goal is a good one because it fixes the discrepancy between law and enforcement/interpretation of that law by the government. The message this sends is a good one: if done without harming the rights of others, breaking laws to uphold them is a mechanism for moral-societal progress. Ultimately, more good should come if the breaking of the law does uphold its core ideas.

Eric Yang

JuliaC. said...

This whole idea of breaking the law to uphold it always brings to mind 'Boondock Saints', because the premise of that entire movie is that vigilantism is justified because the only people harmed are those who have harmed others. People who have done nothing wrong should have nothing to fear. In theory, this sort of citizen-as-law-enforcement thing could work, if every vigilante on the streets was level-headed, just, intelligent etc. and if they always had irrefutable proof that the people they were harming were actually criminals. But the world is obviously not perfect, and were vigilantism, or breaking the law to uphold the law, acceptable in our society, it would give rise to chaos, because there would be tons of unqualified people running around claiming to be superheroes and saviors. We have to rely on the letter of the law, however round-about and long-winded it may seem at times, because without universal rules, without some shades of black and white, it would be impossible to ensure fairness in the legal system, because every individual could decide the law for themselves. If vigilantism were magically confined to an elite group of people, who were just and scrupulous, then it could do more good than harm, because these people would be able to operate free from the universal codes and ethics that confine law enforcement and sometimes prevent them from punishing or catching criminals. But the vary nature of vigilantism defies this sort of confinement and ultimately means that allowing anyone to take the law into their own hands, with the exception of self-defense, would undermine every law that keeps any society from chaos. It just sets a bad precedent.

cypresstreee said...

If we break the law to uphold it, what message does that send? Ultimately, does it do more harm than good?

Really, it depends what we say is "harm". Breaking the law, in theory, is always going to cause harm in a society since the vast majority of laws are created to keep society safe. When individuals decide that they are above these laws and break them, the result isn't favorable for society, even if the "ends justify the means".
The message that it sends, however, can be interpreted many ways. When Martin Luther King Jr. ignored his lack of a parade permit and marched anyways, the message it sent was positive (i.e. that he wouldn't give up in the face of adversity). So while breaking the law will cause harm to society, sometimes it's not percieved as harm by the people in the society, which brings up the question, if people don't recognize the harm, does it matter?

-Cypress Lefsky

KatieA said...

I agree with Don that theoretically, breaking the law in order to uphold it does more harm than good. By doing so, one negates the purpose of the law's existence, so it almost seems like it would be plausible to say that the existence of laws is in itself a futile construct. However, like many of my classmates I feel that I apply a bit of an utilitarian view. Sometimes the end really does justify the means, especially in the case of the law. I'd rather the law get twisted a bit than to have murderers getting acquitted. Then again, if the law that is broken presents a worse offense than the one that is trying to be upheld, the outcome would be harmful. In a perfect world, the law wouldn't ever be broken. But we don't live in that world, so sometimes what has to be done has to be done.

Katie Ashby

shilpa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shilpa said...

I feel that breaking the law to uphold it carries across a message of unfairness in the public mind. It illustrates a sense of hypocrisy as it suggests that some citizens, specifically those with legal authority, have the right to manipulate the law, while other "plain citizens" do not.

Ultimately, I feel that such acts create more harm than good. Although they might end up putting a serial killer in prison or an identity thief on trial, in the end, the law will lose its value in the eyes of the public. Individuals will start to lose faith in the legal system and those who represent it.

Natalie Dunn said...

I agree with Don because for the most part, breaking a law in order to uphold it just puts you in the same position that you started, with the law being broken. I do think that in almost all cases the law should be held precisely as written otherwise it shouldn't be a law if needed to be broken. But I do think that in very rare situations it might be necessary to break a law if you have the greater outcome at heart and if done for that specific reason only. Otherwise, laws aren't made to be broken.

Spencer said...

Say what you want about your "rights" and what is "ethical", the law is bent and broken by the government everyday. This is the way that the United States government functions, if you don't believe me, take a look at Guantanamo Bay. If you think that the government never breaks laws, then you are sadly mistaken. They do so in spite of their own personal interest and gain, it's just the way the administration functions.

Spencer said...

- Spencer Donnelly

Phil_S said...

Simply put, breaking a law sends the message that it's "okay" to do so. However, being in today's society with increasingly absurd laws, violating a law to do the "right" thing morally can be called for. Having stated this, I must clarify that breaking a law should be an absolute last resort--as great harm would be caused to society in the event that everyone started breaking laws because they thought they were "doing the right thing."

Phil_S said...

-Philip Schaeffer

Alex Kreger said...

My question is, in breaking the law, are we really upholding anything? I think not. For instance, at Guantanamo Bay, we have tortured detainees to access information. The information from them was supposed to keep America safe and, some said, was therefore worth it. These are, after all, people who want to completely destroy our way of life. However, doesn't torturing our enemies go against our way of life in itself? In breaking the law, we began to destroy it, without any help. This example goes to support the idea that, there is no such thing as breaking the law to uphold it. You cannot do both at the same time.
-Alex Kreger

hockeysuto22 said...

In my perspective, it can be looked at in both ways. Of course it is never simply ok to break the law. However, some things may never be revealed without breaking it. This area is never a black and white one, rather in the gray area... And unfortunately, it just depends on who you talk to. This also brings up the idea do the ends justify the means? In my opinion yes because the end could mean everything, and I for instance don't know what methods I would use to answer life questions, or catch a known criminal. It is impossible to judge. And no, I am not a cynic.

Caleb said...

I really have no idea on this. Original, I know. But My first instinct is to say that it depends on the situation, that in some circumstances the end justifies the means, but I don't know. That seems like a justification that could be used to excuse anything. The message that it sends would be a hypocritical one. If the law is to be upheld, then it must be upheld in all situations, regardless of circumstance. But then I start thinking about all the situations where maybe it is necessary, or maybe it would the best course. So, really I have no idea if it does more harm than good, or how I feel about it. So, hooray for conflicted-ness.

Katy J. said...

If we break the law to uphold it, what message does that send? Ultimately, does it do more harm than good?

I think that the reason that we have the law, is to keep people in line, and stop them from breaking it. Breaking the law to keep somebody else from doing it doesn't make much sense, because either way the law is broken. So, why should it make sense that someone can break the law to uphold it, as well? If that happens, the law has not only been broken once, but broken twice. And, that is more harm than good. That's one more crime added to the world that shouldn't be there.

-Katy J.

Meredith Wheeler said...

I think that it's easy to take a strict utilitarian view of the law, but it's pretty difficult to define what constitutes a positive outcome. There are so many negative implications of violating the law to enforce it. Even though the law is imperfect, we can't take a cafeteria approach and place a value judgment on which laws are appropriate to uphold and which are not. However, I think there is more leeway than some people are implying. For example, law enforcement officers can go undercover as dealers as part of drug/gang investigations. However, if an officer partakes in dealing unrelated to the narrow judicial intent of an investigation (usually as outlined by a judge) then an ethical line is crossed, as in the case of the CSU police.

Adong said...

Utimately, the outcome of breaking the law to upohld it accomplishes the goal. However, I don't know if this justifies breaking the law that you are upholding. It doesn't serve the purpose most of the time. Most of the time, by breaking the law in order to catch a criminal, the official didn't really have to break that law. The outcome may be positive, however, by breaking the law, you are doing more harm than good, if the government officials broke the law, then the law itself would be useless.
Yet, I do see the point of view of officials that break the law in order to catch the bad guy. Some time our courts let the bad guy go and all they want is to make sure the bad guy is behind bars so they never comitte another crime. Yet, this still doesn't justify breaking the law to uphold it.

KellyC said...

I believe that all laws have a purpose, however I do think that there can be exceptions to those laws. Civil disobedience and many other laws were broken during the civil rights movement, and without people willing to speak up against the law, it would not have changed. Speaking up against the law can be justified, although only on very rare occasions. One must outweigh the good and the bad.
Kelly Cannon

AllenZhu said...

The law cannot be upheld if it was followed strictly. There are always certain circumstances where the law can be broken. If the law was strictly followed, there would be certain situations that would be worse if the law wasn't broken than the consequences that would result if the law was broken. Also, if a law is broken with good intentions, then it wouldn't seem all that bad. There are people out there who would break the law and break it with bad intentions. Then, I believe that sometimes it is necessary to break the law, but with the good intention to uphold the law from the people breaking the law. There are certain situations when people are given authority to break the law in order to uphold it. Basically, if the overall good that comes out of it outweighs the harm that is done by breaking the law, then I would consider it okay to break the law.
It ultimately depends on the situation.

Paige said...

The message I believe it sends is something that cannot be taken seriously. It is like a child to someone they model. If that model does something bad it almost gives the child an ok reason to do the same or they just won't see what the model did may have been something harmful. So basically yes it does do more harm than good. Being a hypocrite not a way to control and set order to something because when the person establishing a rule and some authority over something and they turn around and did the opposite, then the people they are trying to set order to see that the authority doesn't find it important, therefore it isn't important. And in the end could lead to destruction of what was established.

katealta said...

I agree with Ali. I think that it needs to be judged every time whether the good outweighs the bad. That doesn’t necessarily mean that people shouldn’t take responsibility for their actions and except the consequences even when the good does outweigh the bad, but they can be judged with the principle of utility in mind, so that it’s a more just punishment.
Kate Wilcox

DrewC aka BA said...

The message that it sends at least in the case we dealt with is that it is ok to break the law in a minor sense in order to prosecute and arrest a dangerous criminal. I think the guy who lied is 100% in the "right" because he brought a murder, who has given up his right to have demands met, into custody. Good Job! I would rather see the police officer break the law and get the criminal rather than let him run loose in public. Any measure should be taken to get a killer into custody no matter what the law states. The killer gave up his right to live when he took someone else's life. He should be put to death with or without the law. Ultimately does it do more harm than good? NO!! If a dangerous criminal is not arrested due to some small legal issue then the law is wrong. If the law needs to be broken so be it if it is to uphold the higher standards of the law. It is beneficial and the actions of the police officer were both justified and right.

DrewC aka BA said...

That was Drew Carlile
(DrewC aka BA) yeah thats me

taydolak said...

I think its a very situational thing, but I would say that sometimes it is necessary to break the law, for the greater good. I think in the case of the murderer we read about, it was for the greater good. I think the message that it sends is one that sometimes laws must be compromised for the greater good. It unreasonable to think that everything will always line up and doing the right thing is easy, because its definately not. I think that sometimes there may not be a right or lawful thing to do in a certain situation, or sometimes a "wrong" action has to be committed in order to do the right thing. And maybe the law isn't always in accordance with doing what is right. I think in that instance it is important to know that the action as wrong, but do it anyway as long as it is for the greater ethicall good in the end.

Michelle Madsen said...

I think that the law should be broken if the people breaking it believe that they are really doing good for the whole by doing something wrong. I think if it helps the greater good then it should be done, it is again the question of morals vs ethics. I do think that the law is set for the right reasons but it should be broken sometimes, that dosn't mean that anyone is allowed to break them just that under circumstances like those that Don said should be looked at differently.

Callie said...

This post reminds me of the question, do the ends justify the means? I'm not sure I know the answer, but if you break the law for a better outcome, you are still breaking a law that people agreed upon to keep others safe. I think that there are times when breaking the law accomplishes more good than upholding it. For example, the concept of Civil Disobedience that we learned about in history, is that breaking unfair laws that oppress people or fair laws that are unfairly enforced to oppress people, is a way to bring about change. However, I think that if one breaks the law to uphold it, they must be willing to accept the consequences and hope that the outcome will be greater than the consequences.
-Callie Mabry

leahreynolds said...

I believe that if there are strong enough justifications to go against the law then it is worth breaking but only if they are willing to accept the consequences. What is most important is keeping people safe in society and sometimes that might lead to treating the law as more of a guideline. However; as many people have touched on, if the law is broken then you might be sending the message that it is alright to break the law. This is why I believe that it may be alright to break the law for the greater good, they must be ready to accept the consequences in order to show that the law cannot be bypassed for doing a supposed good deed.

Pfiester said...

I believe that breaking a law to uphold it sends the wrong message. Ultimately laws become useless if they can be easily disregarded. However context is everything in this question. If the situation is dire enough that enormous harm is possible, is it not more ethical to step in and remove the source of harm to people even if that entails overstepping a few laws? (A good example would be the Pautler case where a murderer was taken off the streets. In order to neutralize the potential force of destruction, Neals, Pautler broke the law.) This brings up a type of "ends justify the means" argument, which could be very dangerous. Since it is very subjective, what constitutes a dire situation, it is safest to enforce the law by punishing those who break it, taking in account intent.
It would ultimately do more harm than good if the law is constantly broken in the means of upholding it. If the law is perceived as something that is optional to follow all the constructs of our society are threatened. Rules must be established and adhered to in order to stave off chaos. The harm of breaking the law to uphold it, is that it encourages disorder and threatens the authority we give the laws to govern us.
- Laura Pfiester

Mr. T said...

I think that we are all presuming that the law is more or less the epitome of ethics, and that if something is against the law then it is wrong.

However there are occasions when the law is in the wrong. Take into consideration, "The Dark Knight." Early on in the film, the mob money launderer Lao takes his ill gotten funds to China. There's nothing that the law can do, yet Batman breaks the law to ultimately return Lao to American soil to testify in an important trial against the gang lords of Gotham.

Really this question has Batman written all over it. Batman breaks the law in order to enforce the law because sometimes the law isn't the epitome of ethics that we would like to be. What would be more moral? Batman sitting aside and doing nothing while an important witness fled the country or breaking the law to help put criminals behind bars?

I kind of wonder... If something is a law, does that automatically and unarguably make it right?

-Michael Toland (although that would be pretty obvious I'd imagine)

Sarah Dean said...

By breaking the law to uphold it, this shows the potentially flawed justice system, and brings all laws into question. It also makes morals and ethics conflict with the law, and isn't that the point of laws? to uphold ethics?
So, I did say in the previous posting pre-seminar that I agreed with the action that Pautler took, that he was right in lying to the murder to bring him to justice. However, I don't think that this should be a standard: to ignore laws and do what we believe is morally right all of the time. It is like the article by John McCain on torture: he said that we should never torture a prisoner, and that should be the law; however, he understands that in rare cases it could be the only way. He went on to say that these special circumstance should not be written into the law, because that would condone torture, which he is against. Similarly, I don't believe that it should be ok to break the law if it is morally/ethically right, because that would condone doing it all the time. THAT would do more harm than good.

Paul said...

I believe that breaking the law to uphold it is not only ok but necessary. There are of course varying degrees that one could exemplify what Oliver is asking. I personally see a parallel to the concepts of freedom and the violent and law breaking pursuit of it. The revolutionary war was little more than a group of individuals breaking the law and partially doing so to uphold the moral and society laws that apply to them. I invite argument on this point but I personally see a connection to this kind of situation. On a lesser scale I still agree with the breaking of law to uphold other parts of it. I think another great example that we see in the modern justice are self-defense laws. These laws clearly allow one to break the law, even to the point of murdering another individual, for the protection of themselves and the legal rights they have as a citizen. To say whether this does more harm than good can really only be judged on an example by example basis but for both of the examples I have listed previously, I think the breaking of the law did more good than harm.

Big D said...

It sends a message of progress. This country was founded on the ideal of civil disobedience. If we are afraid to break laws in order to prove them unjust then we have become stagnant and ripe for revolution. The interest of the government and it's people is to be proactive in their upholding of order. If a law is unjust it is our duty to our country to oppose that law.

Ilya said...

If we break the law to uphold it, what message does that send? Ultimately, does it do more harm than good?

'Tis an interesting question… law is designed to be quite inflexible, but morals rarely are so black and white… my personal philosophy ultimately goes very much towards that the ends sometimes justify many of the (less harmful) means taken. But not always, as Fred pointed out - then law will simply crumble, if exceptions are made all the time… if someone wants to disagree with this, some consequences must follow - but how many, and how harsh? Ultimately, it would be nice if people would do good (if illegal) things out of the goodness of their hearts, and resign themselves to the consequences… but that's not always possible - people prefer not risking their necks.

So.... hmm.... I suppose my ultimate conclusion is similar to Don's: there's instances where disobeying the law will benefit the Greater Good, but those are rarely more important than obeying the law - besides, if the law's wrong, it can be adjusted and re-approved. However, there's always instances that will tax people's emotions enough that they'll let them overpower their reasoning, and I agree with some of those: if a lawyer has to lie to help disarm a terrorist with a bomb, so be it, and I see absolutely nothing wrong with that - lying, with a proper justification, can be perfectly okay (though more so for people who never explicitly state that they will not lie...)... maybe my morals are all just woefully messed up and beyond repair... it's all based on experience, though.... But regardless, it's all based on the situation at hand. Most of the time, it's better to keep the laws fully functional including in respect to punishing those who may break them in order to do good.

[[ And of course, now that I've written all of the above, I come upon Lauren's post, which says everything I wrote, but more articulately, concisely, and sensibly. Story of my life.... but no, I agree completely with Lauren, it can't be solely black and white, we need to at least introduce a full 256-shade greyscale system, at the very least. Also, I agree with Laura - very few instances should actually result in the law-breaker getting off completely scot-free… the presence of some punishment will show others that the law still applies, even when breaking it is used for good, but a reduced punishment will also serve to demonstrate that a good intent and results are still better than breaking the law with evil intentions… ]]

[[[ And to Ali and Clem: yes, Principle of Utility is wonderful here - not perfect, I admit, but often enough, take down one person, perhaps through not completely "right" means, but save a dozen in the greater scheme of things. Maybe not quite "right", but fits the Principle…… ]]]

[[[[ And one last thought, perhaps someone will have something to say about this: I recently saw a documentary on the History Channel about plans to kill Hitler… what are your thoughts on the matter? Suppose we have a conspirator who manages to eliminate Hitler in some way or other (during WWII)… supposing he/she survives the incident, should they be tried for murder? And what if they nailed some other Nazi political heads? Are the actions (demolishing the man behind WWII) justified by the results (a broken Nazi gov't, more easily halted)? You decide. ]]]]


Cheers,
Ilya Smirnov.

Rebecca said...

If laws need to be broken for laws to be followed, then it means that there are laws that contradict each other. For me, this sends the message that something needs to change. However, this isn't always possible. An example is the law that attornies may not lie or be deceptive. Overall, this is a good law because it ensures the integrity of the justice system. But it isn't perfect because it inhibits people like Pautler from arresting dangerous criminals. However, that doesn't mean we should get rid of it because it still does good for society.

I think that breaking the law to uphold it does good by doing harm. When this happens it is hurtful to people, not only to those involved, but to society as a whole. It causes us to call into question the system that we've created. From this we are able to make and adjust laws to the best of our abilities.

Rebecca said...

Brooke Jostad says:

If one has to break the law in order to uphold it, I feel like it depends on the situation as to whether the action does more harm than good. In terms of the Potler case, the lawyer broke the law, but in the process he protected basic moral standards. I think it all goes back to the idea that there is a difference between being ethical and being moral. Breaking the law for any reason is unethical, because it goes against societal ethical codes. However, breaking ethical laws with moral justifications does more harm than good, for the most part. If someone breaks a law in order to save something else, it's still unethical, and they should still be punished out of respect for the honesty and credibility of the justice system, but it could still do more good than harm. Now I'm rambling, but I remember my dad (sorry, feels too weird to say Magistrate Jostad) linking the whole thing back to the idea of civil disobedience. You can break the law knowing full well that you will receive punishment, yet you do it anyway.

Rebecca said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Audrey said...

I feel that given the way the legal system here in the USA is designed--with laws being, essentially, open to interpretation and shifting based on the views of the populace--chances are high that if you have to break the law to uphold it, the law should be revisited. HOWEVER, in this instance I feel that laws governing the actions of public officials shouldn't be broken by the officials in the course of performing their jobs (ie acting as public officials rather than as citizens) because that constitutes a revocation of the trust that we place in these officials to perform their jobs within designated guidelines. In this case, I feel that the police officer should have been disciplined, and should have considered the consequences before acting so that he would have the moral fortitude to take his punishment if he felt it was necessary to break the law in order to perform a greater good. Basically, we need to know that when we request a lawyer, we'll get an actual public defender, that the police won't lie to us, etc in order to maintain the rule of law, and if public officials feel the need to break that law for the public good, they need to feel that the public good is worth both breaking the law and accepting the consequences.

Ariel said...

Wouldn't breaking the law to uphold another law simply be hypocritical? It would be difficult to determine which laws are more "worth upholding" than others. As in the male murder case and the officer who preteneded to be a lawyer it would appear that it was more worth arresting a potentially dangerous criminal than being honest, but how are we to decide which does more good? If it was always left up to the officer/law enforcement personell to decide this, it would end up differeing form person to person and therefore be extremely bias. This question posses multiple issues.

And yet if you think of things on a larger scale laws are simply created to keep the people safe, promote justice, freedom and liberty, so.... for that reason it is important to follow all the laws when each individual deems it necessary. Problematic.

Breaking a law to uphold another one is like the death penalty: killing people who kill to show that killing poeople is wrong; breaking the law to uphold another law to show that braking the law is wrong.

Rachel said...

If we break the law to uphold it, what message does that send? Ultimately, does it do more harm than good?

When we were being presented with the case about the axe murder this same question came to my mind. I personally believe that laws were created to be upheld and when it is broken the one committing the crime should be punished accordingly. Yes I do think that there are many problems with current laws and I think it is stupid when I have to pay a ticket for paying my registration one day late on my car. Although I don't like the law sometimes I truly believe that it is there for our protection and the way it is designed we can not pick and choose when it should apply. With this in mind I believe that when the law is broken to uphold it that the ones making the choice to break it are sending the message that they are greater then the rest of us, almost Godly. The message of Godliness is being sent because they are consciously choosing to break a law and expecting no consequences, as if they are better then the rest of us. So ultimately I believe that the law should not be broken in order to uphold it because if it is done once where will we stop? Will it create a slippery slope leading to corruptness of the great nation we have created?

KellyR. said...

If we break the law to uphold it, what message does that send? Ultimately, does it do more harm than good?
Our ethics are being replaced by our morals. This "does it do more harm than good" depends on what one views is more good, the ethics or morals of the community. Laws are created to monitor our morals to fit under a certian ethical code. If we have to cross certain lines in the ethics of societyto have our morals be covered then it may be good to some people if it covers their morals but wrong to others because they view that the ethical codes should be covered over the morals of individuals. I think it is really a question of what is more important, morals or ethics.
Kelly Rappe

KellyR. said...

If we break the law to uphold it, what message does that send? Ultimately, does it do more harm than good?
Our ethics are being replaced by our morals. This "does it do more harm than good" depends on what one views is more good, the ethics or morals of the community. Laws are created to monitor our morals to fit under a certian ethical code. If we have to cross certain lines in the ethics of societyto have our morals be covered then it may be good to some people if it covers their morals but wrong to others because they view that the ethical codes should be covered over the morals of individuals. I think it is really a question of what is more important, morals or ethics.
Kelly Rappe

KellyR. said...

If we break the law to uphold it, what message does that send? Ultimately, does it do more harm than good?
Our ethics are being replaced by our morals. This "does it do more harm than good" depends on what one views is more good, the ethics or morals of the community. Laws are created to monitor our morals to fit under a certian ethical code. If we have to cross certain lines in the ethics of societyto have our morals be covered then it may be good to some people if it covers their morals but wrong to others because they view that the ethical codes should be covered over the morals of individuals. I think it is really a question of what is more important, morals or ethics.
Kelly Rappe

Sophia said...

I think that the message that is sent by this shows that as a society, our morals often overpower our ethics, usually if it is "the right thing". I believe that it ultimately helps the ethics of society to grow and develop more in order to make adjustments according to real situations and therefore create a better society overall.

Nels said...

I believe that it sends a bad message to people and it does not respect the I want to say ethical authority of the law. However, I do not believe that this means that we should always obey the law. However I believe if one breaks the law for a better cause like that one lawyer did, he should readily accept the consequences. It sets the tone that the law is fairly rigid, but there is some movement within it for the right thing to happen. In the end I believe that this does more good if taken in this way as it shows that the authority can get stuff right while at the same time being held accountable.

Brittany said...

do the ends justify the means? I don't think so. I think that if we live by the greater good principle than there is no limit to the things we could blow off with the excuse that it would be worth it in the end. Say, for example, there was a serial killer on the loose and the police knew it was one of three people, but they would never be able to determine which one it was, would it be ethical to send all three to prison rather than let the murders continue? Breaking the law to uphold it doesn't work because someone innocent will usually get hurt in the process and it is immoral and unethical.
-Brittany

s.hannon said...

i think that if we break the law to uphold what we believe is true and right, then it should do more good, as long as the person is able to accept that there are concequences to breaking the law. there can be no one that is above the law or else there is corruption and total chaos, yet there are periods of time when people who broke the law to fight a corrupt or unjust system and these people are considered heroes.

-shannon finnell

Lindsey Goris said...

In general I beleive that breaking the law, for whatever reason, should not be tolerated because it is setting a bad precedent that breaking the law is okay if it is "for the greater good". Also, if it is considered appropriate once, it will be considered appropriate again, and it will continue to be appropriate in situations that are less and less extreme. If breaking the law to uphold it is tolerated i think that it sends a message making laws seem more like guidelines which they are not.
So, are there cases in which breaking the law to uphold it is right? I think that it can only do more good than harm if the law breaker accepts the consequences for their actions, and receives the appropriate punishment regardless of their intentions. I think that is the only way to prevent laws from losing their meaning.

Rachel said...

My dad is an attorney. In a related conversation, I asked him about his moral justification for defending someone who he knows is guilty (of criminal behavior, negligence, whatever). He said that he always tries to put the best argument for that person forward, because that is a right that he would like to see upheld were the situation reversed - it is the responsibility of the judge and jury to determine guilt, not the attorney.

Anyway, in connection to this question, with this perspective, breaking the law, even to uphold it, is to presume to know what is right and what is wrong. Although in the cases we looked at the person seemed clearly guilty, what about the instance where the attorney or officer or whomever oversteps their power and makes the wrong decision? I believe that the laws are in place to protect people from the negative effects of decisions-under-pressure. Although this could be construed as a slippery-slope argument, I think we should take extra caution when it comes to our rights. Even though good often results, the potential for harm justifies harsh repercussions for breaking the law. If it is worth breaking the law to do (like getting a mad axe murderer off the streets), then it is also worth the punishment. A lesser punishment implies that the deed is not so great, and sends the message that such violations of laws is not the gray area that it is. This is harmful.

Rachel Dean

alm said...

Gosh this is a hard question to answer. Usually the way I see it is that there are so many bad people at there breaking the rules that to stop them the good guys have to break the rules too. If a cop lies to but a rapist or serial killer in prison that what harm has been done?

Of course this is presuming that the authorities breaking the law are good people with good intentions. Breaking the law even for the right reasons sets a precedent for others, and maybe good intentions aren't always present (in fact I am positive they are not).

I feel like breaking the law to uphold it sends the message that we are all humans, not machines, and to play by the rules will not always produce the desired or the just result. If you are going to break the law then you better be justified, and you better be ready and willing to take responsibility for your choices.

Amy

Nick said...

I think that the message sent when someone breaks the law in order to uphold it can be interpreted in two different ways. One would be that the person is viewed as a dedicated person who is willing to stick their neck out for what is right and take the consequences, and another is a person who is willing to do whatever it takes for personal gain and are unwilling to take the consequences. A large part of the interpretation of these actions is also determined by how the person acts before, during, and after the action or event has taken place.

Ben Baroch said...

to me, it sends the message that there are people who are above the law, which is contradictory to the purpose of the law. in theory, nobody it above the law. Thus, if someone were to break some laws to uphold others, it sends a convoluted message of what the law is.

of course, there are exceptions to the to every rule. sometimes it is necessary to operate outside of the law to uphold it to its full extent. in most cases however, breaking the law to uphold it does do more harm than good.

Simone said...

I believe that constitutes a convoluted form of civil disobedience. In an idealistic world, disobeying the law to uphold it is an act that seems chivalrous and something of a super hero at the same time.

Logically, laws are there for a reason, and to disobey them, no matter to what end, is a form of undermining them. Which thereby renders them useless in the first place.

But in a situation where that is the only avenue to pursue for success, I believe it's justified. I don't think it should be made public; I think it is a form of law-enforcement that should be held below the radar. But if achieves an end, by all means. The good it does morally redeems the harm it caused in the first place.

Of course if it doesn't work, that's another issue entirely.

~Simone

CJ said...

I'm gonna have to go with what Ali said, the Principle of Utility is really what should be applied here. When the good outweighs the bad you really aren't doing anything "bad" ethically speaking. Legally? Yes. And you may be incarcerated for your actions but if you are doing the right thing, like MLK Jr. did with Birmingham, then you really shouldn't have any qualms with the punishment. The fact that the punishment is still there ensures that those who commit the crime for the wrong reasons are punished as well so that really shouldn't change. It's called civil disobedience for a reason.

-CJ

Lynda L. said...

If we break the law to uphold it, what message does that send? Ultimately, does it do more harm than good?

I agree with Don that breaking the law to uphold it does more harm than good. I think part of the reason for having laws in the first place is so that an individual who has commited a crime can be judged based on what laws he/she breaks or does not break. If there were no laws, there would be nothing to judge a person by. However, laws can also be constricting and if breaking them will result in a greater good than resolving the case by following the rules, then I believe that exceptions could be made to the law.

Bonnie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bonnie said...

Laws are made by human beings. They are meant to be followed for social order and stability; breaking these rules, even under ethical justifications, causes unrest and chaos. But, in the case of "breaking laws to uphold laws," the the situation is more sticky - on one hand, a "higher cause" is fulfilled, which causes more "ultimate good" than following the law by the letter would have. However, when that boundary is crossed, we venture into an area of gray - if "higher moral justifications" surpassed the authority of the law, then we would be left to invent a new system of judgment, one based on more shaky, philosophically drawn conclusions, which could bring about some positive changes, but would result in a subjective judicial system, which would defeat the purpose of the judicial system. I bring up the classic case of the father robbing a bank to buy medicine he can't afford for his sick daughter - in terms of ethics, the father is doing more good (saving his daughter's life) than harm (causing the bank to lose money) - and yet, we can't excuse his behavior and let him walk away with the money, because he has still broken the law and infringed on others' rights. In this hypothetical situation, as well as the second case of impersonation, the law-breaker was justified ethically in his actions, but that is not to say that there wasn't a more circuitous but legal way to handle the same situation.
The message sent is that laws will bend in the face of higher ethical obligations, which can only be tempered correctly if the proper consequence for breaking the law is administered. Civil disobedience relies heavily upon this second step, the "follow-up" in order to achieve their goals in revealing the discrepancies between "moral justice and unjust laws," as Eric said. Though at outset the effect may be negative, the message does have positive effects - no society is truly perfect, and its laws often must be tested and tweaked over time by individuals who may hold different moral views in order to adopt the right approach to justice.

Simone said...

(I'm posting Elizabeth's Comment bc she can't post her own)

I think the message that breaking a law to uphold it sends is the responsibility to constantly recognize our weaknesses and improve our society. The breaking of a law in this instance re-emphasizes the unique circumstances that come up in everyday life. By recognizing the need to break with tradition to uphold it we can further understand what that law actually means. The constant re-evaluation of or values, I think, strengthens us. I think that the word break brings a language issue in, that has a negative connotation. I think that bend the law might have a different connotation, or challenge which have positive connotations. This has become a tradition of its own, with much thanks to Emerson. Civil disobedience has brought our country so far and without periodic challenges of our law we would become a stagnant and weak country. There is also the fine line of whether you are upholding it or just breaking it. In the instance of the drugs it was for the protection of the person as well as the community to go by the book in punishment. Smaller laws that do not include direct harm to society like the argument of the Miranda rights for the police officer is harder to tell. Was he doing more help to society than harm or was he, by not following protocol, hurting society. The lawyer I think is much more clear. He made the choice to break a law in order to secure the safety of society. The ethical code of equality I think it was stated that you have to treat unequal people unequally. Well personally I view an axe murderer and rapist unequal to the rest of society. (Yes Raskolnikov brings up another situation entirely) The decision to break the law in that instance I believe did more good and prevented a lot of harm. Therefore I believe that civil disobedience, or breaking the law to uphold it, benefits the country much more than submission.
~Elizabeth B

JWolff said...

I think by breaking a law to uphold it, it sends a message that certain people are allowed to break the laws. They are held up in higher than others when the law should be the same for everyone. Essentially it does more harm than good in the long run because people might not have faith in the justice system if these "certain people" can break the laws. What's the reason for trusting them if they are able to break laws we can't. The only way I see breaking a law fit is if the person who broke it will take the punishments afterward and will take them as if they commited the law-breaking like a regular criminal. They won't think that because they did it for "good moral intensions" that they will get a "nicer" punishment.

Jensen Wolff

Danya said...

If we break the law to uphold it, what message does that send? Ultimately, does it do more harm than it does good?

I think that breaking the law to uphold it is sometimes acceptable, but one must assess all the variables in the situation first. The pros have to outweigh the cons when looking at the inevitable outcome. I think the idea sends the message that the law is breakable, whether that is a good or bad thing. I thought Kelly Cannon's post in particular was really interesting... if you look at the Civil Rights Movement, what kind of message did that situation send? Obviously, that was sending the message that breaking the law could lead to greater things, and greater changes. So again, it really depends on the situation.

Kiah said...

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christine said...

Civil disobedience is an open term, because anyone can believe that their actions are more 'justified' than the law. Civil disobedience happens because our laws aren't perfect. When a large amount of people are disagreeing and purposefully breaking a law, then that sends the message that it should be checked and/or edited, but this also depends on the situation because any number of people could claim they are breaking the law to better the country.

But if we are the ones that are always finding a fit cause to break the law, then it means that the law can still be somewhat dictated by the people. The people keep the government in check because they do what they do amongst themselves, but the people as a whole don't have a large say. Isn't that when civil disobedience comes in?

So far, based on the country's past experiences, breaking the law to uplift it has been proven to be a peaceful yet a slow method of bringing about a new justice to the country. The most popular example to people would be the Civil Rights Movement. As always though, it depends on the situation.

Tae said...

It seems like if breaking the law is critical to preventing even more cataclysmic acts of wrongdoing, then it might be justified. Otherwise, it creates a State of Exception for the government and those who enforce the laws and ultimately diminishes the legitimacy of the law, since it is no longer a code that is meant to be all-encompassing (which grants legitimacy to law).

Tae said...

Ultimately, though, if we are attempting to encourage others to not break the law, and yet we break the law ourselves, we become contradictory. However, if it is absolutely necessary (and it is difficult to delegate when necessity arises and when it does not), minor transgressions upon the law seem preferable to the endangerment of society.

Tae Naqvi

RayF said...

I think it is counter productive, and isn't ideal to break the law in order to uphold it. However, more often then not, it is impractical. For example, the saying "Why do we kill people who kill people, to show that killing people is wrong?"
And to these questions, there really is no simple, definite answer. In the end, my response is it does do more harm than is necessary; but there may be no other option.

LN* said...

In my opinion, there are definitely cases in which there are exceptions to the law being upheld. Our society is not one where rules are black and white. If it was, we wouldn't hold court cases, people would just go to jail when they did something wrong, no question about it. There are situations in which people bend the rules. Whether it is a police officer letting you off with a warning even though you were going ten over or just having a sales attendent let you put back stolen merchandise instead of calling the police. The messege this sends is that our society is an understanding one. We all realize that soemtimes a punishment is not fully deserved and understand that people make mistakes. Depending on the situation this can do more harm than good, but you can't really measure this.

Liz I. said...

by breaking the law to uphold it, it is sending a bad message. it's basically an oximoron and sends a misleading message. ultimately i believe it does more good than harm because it can be fixed. the investigator was disciplined for his actions, so it was dealt with correctly. i believe that getting the murderer off of the streets was the most important issue at the moment, and i would have done the same thing. however, the law was broken and i agree with the decsion to discipline him
-liz i

Ryan Beethe said...

Breaking the law to uphold it is obviously very hypocritical. On the other hand, saying that this is what happened when the lawyer lied is totally oversimplifying the situation. He broke an ethical code to catch a serial killer, so the amount of good done far outweighs the degree to which the law was broken. I'd love to say that we should never ever break the law to uphold the law, but this is one case where it seems like there is another force at work. The whole purpose of the law is to protect the innocent, right? And if those in charge are not doing everything within their power to catch a serial killer, then what on earth are we paying them for?

Michael W. said...

Breaking the law in order to uphold it can be interpreted in many different ways. I think that when we uphold the law, we are upholding justice and our own human values. In order to uphold these values, it is necessary to ensure that the law is doing what it was created to do. If the law is unjust, we must break it in order to truly uphold it.
Therefore, I think that ulitimately it does more good. This is due to the premise that whenever we break the law, we do so to uphold justice and that which is right. In that instance, it is perfectly fine to do so.

BTW, sorry for posting so late...

Michael Wang

ethan_is_ninja said...

I believe it depends on who is breaking the law to uphold it. If a government figure, ranging from a policeman to the President, breaks the law to ultimately benefit the people, it can be looked upon as hypocritical, and therefore, harmful. This may cause social discord and unrest, as government figures are supposed to use the law to uphold the law, not break it. If a civilian such as a bank teller or a student breaks the law to uphold it, such as murdering a murderer in action, it is more acceptable because they did not contribute to create the laws.



Ethan Zhao

Sorry for this being late :/

kaitlynL said...

If we break the law to uphold it, what message does that send? Ultimately, does it do more harm than good?

Well, if you break it down into each individual instance, sure, there are times when breaking the law to uphold it does a lot of good! I'm glad that Paulter was found guilty, because I would so much rather that have been the outcome. However, bending the rules for one case is a good way to have to start bending them all over the place, ultimately defeating the purpose of having laws in general. If you're going to break the law to uphold it, you're better off living in an anarchy, because at least then no one will get in trouble.

griffin said...

Clearly yes. By breaking the law to uphold the law, the law loses its ability to function. If we say that torture is illegal, and then DO torture people, how does the law last? I think that this act shows an inherent lack of confidence in our judicial system, that it is necessary to do wrong in order to do good. If other countries or groups took up this mantra, could any number of horrific events be far behind?

Flip said...

I think that each case is obviously different, and that each action in resonse to those cases will have different actions. To say a just outcome will come from civil disobedience in every instance is in my opinion false, but certainly if done for the right reasons with moral intents and results, then yes, it should be done. I think the message it sends is one that the humans are not always apathetic and can find a higher meaning in life than simple laws permit. Of course, this has to be considerate of peace and harmony, such as the case with Ghandi. A balance must be kept.

Hannah N said...

Breaking the law in order to uphold it sends mixed messages. It's a rather hypocritical thing to do...however. I think it's much more complex than that. Depending on the difference between the law that's been broken and the law that's being upheld, one can justify his reasoning beneath this "exchange of laws." As a personal opinion, I would suggest that some laws are more heavily weighted, more important, and more relevant than others. It's true that the web of laws upholding our society is intricate and it's arguable that each individual law has it's important role in that web. But when you think about it, the law that says a teenager cannot drive with another person until 6 months after having his license is important (for the safety of the teens) but not AS important as the law that convicts those who have commited gruesome crimes (such as murder). So my answer is yes and no. It all depends. It can do more harm, but generally, if it is involving something like the Pautler case that is about the ethical implications of his actions (wrong, but nothing in comparison to the unethical practice of murder) it did more good than harm. (Although I still stand by my statement that they should have rested their verdict until the Pautler situation was taken into account). I guess the main message it sends is this: Our law system isn't perfect. Sometimes things aren't so black and white; aren't cut and dry. Rarely, in fact. Each case is unique and should be treated uniquely. Laws can't be traded as if they were some form of currency...but they also can't always be seperate from one another. Like most things in life, laws overlap. That's just the way it is (and will always be).

-Hannah Neff

Kaitlyn T. said...

I think there are times when it’s important and necessary to break the law for the greater good but other times it’s definitely now ok. It all depends on the situation. Using this case for example, breaking the law was the best way they could think of at that moment to catch the bad guy. We can look back now and see other alternatives but at the time it was what they thought was best. They used their experiences and personal morals to make a call that ultimately ended in a success as far as catching the murder goes. I’m not saying that policemen should have the right to abide by some laws and not others because of what they think, but sometimes it is better to do what fits the situation. The law definitely has grey areas and that’s where ethics come in. There are never two exactly identical cases so all we can do is learn from previous cases and make the best call in our minds for each situation.

Laura Jo said...

It defeats the whole purpose of having laws if you have to break them to uphold them. Even if it is a "one time" thing, the laws were made to establish order and if people (especially ones in authority) bend the laws, then the laws will no longer have any significance or power.

Going back to the case we discussed earlier; if people like police officers are given the power to maintain order, they have no right to be above the laws they enforce upon everyone else. They would be complete hypocrites, and YES—bring more harm than good. When people start finding the cracks to squeeze through, the cracks will eventually get larger, and at some point our foundation of order will ultimately crumble.

meredith said...

If we break the law to uphold it, what message does that send? Ultimately, does it do more harm than good?

As always, justify.

First of all, I do not think that there is such thing as “breaking the law to uphold it.” Either you break a law, or you uphold the law. There is no in between. If we choose to break the law because we feel it is for the betterment of society, or keeps more people save etc., it is still breaking the law. If we break the law “for the greater good," taking into account the principle of utility, in which breaking the law will ultimately do the most good, then perhaps in such cases breaking the law can be justified. In Pautler’s case for instance, he broke the law, and was rightfully punished for it, yet he also did the right thing by breaking the law. The message sent by this case was that breaking the law still has its consequences, as a due process so that people don’t start breaking the law for arbitrary reasons, yet in some cases it is the right thing to due. If laws are in place to protect people and their rights, ultimately it does more harm to break them. There are the exceptions though, in which the law gets in the way of protecting people.
-Meredith Campbell

Shellie said...

completely spaced the name game.

Shellie = Michelle Moon.

Big Boi PMIL said...

Personally I believe that if we have to break the law to uphold I think that depending on the situation it could be justified and not really do much harm. If there is someone who is the mafia and they kill someone at the same time they stole 3 million dollars form the federal bank. Then by all means break the law because if the person is ever going to be avenged deception, stealing, and deadly force might be needed to bring justice and in my opinion its ok and people will understand why it was done and probably wont reinact the actions. However is someone is driving to many people in their car or they have a tailight out, if a cop wants to pull them over and they have to run a red light and speed to pull them over i think it's uneeded because that puts more people in danger than the broken tailight. Overall i believe that breaking the law in certain circumstances creates a sense comfort in the people because they trust if something is needed to be done it will be done, but in other circumstances i believe it causes a sense of unfaithfullnes because the government is abusing its power.

-Pierce Miller

James Rogers said...

I think it's a matter of utility, if the ultimate outcome is beneficial, for example, trespassing to uncover the identity of a murderer is acceptable. I think it's which laws are broken to uphold which law is where the true importance of the matter is. After all to put it so simply would be inconceivable. I think it sends a negative message if the law broken outweighs or equals the law being upheld.

Elle said...

I was absent for the seminar but I will respond anyways...
I think that the message that is sent by those who break the law to uphold it, is fairly contradictory and hypycritical. However, I feel that in some cases, breaking the law to uphold the law is necessary. As long as the law broken won't harm others or won't do harm that isn't deserved, this seems ok to me. In the reading we had to do, the law that the posed "lawyer: committed, wasn't bad at all. I think that in order to catch and give correct punishment to the murderer this had to take place. We can't also just follow the law if others are not going to be put to justice or if others are going to be harmed by doing so.

James said...

I think breaking the law to uphold it does more harm then good in some cases but it depends on the severity of the law being broken and for what reason it is being broken. If a law enforcement officer breaks the law then he himself is a criminal just as much as the person he is trying to uphold the law to. However I agree with James Rogers, if the law being upheld outweighs the law being broken significantly then the law being broken can be excused. Also, if the law being broken is significantly outweighed in severity by the law being upheld then the punishment recieved by the person breaking the law to uphold it will or should be significantly less and be worth breaking it for justice.

Haylee S said...

Personally, I do not think it causes more harm to break the law to uphold it. Everybody has their own moral limitations, and if somebody breaks the law to stand up to their moral obligations, then I see absolutely no harm in that. I feel once there is damage done there is nothing you can do to make it worse, especially when trying to make it better (according to your moral standards). And, honestly, I don't think there is a negative message that comes with the breaking of the law; there are so many different situations when laws have been broken that it is hard to judge and say that breaking the law to live up to your morals would convey a negative message. I don't necessarily think it conveys a positive image either... so I guess what I am saying is that it doesn't really say any certain message that is really of importance to be emotionally altered by.

~Haylee Schiavo

Jared said...

I see the law as a way to maintain order in an imperfect society. We as humans do a lot of inexplainable things, look at the court cases, and if nothing was done to stop these things what would happen? Law is not a terrible thing, something to be hated and bent to get our ways, instead the purpose of their establishment must be realized.

So often the language issue of "breaking to law" describes those who scorn the very purpose of the laws. It seems to me that if the law is broken in order to advance the purpose of its establishment then it would be hypocritical to punish those in question. Using the example of the officer who lied to bring in the murderer; to punish actions maintaining order, life and bringing justice sends the message that the law is higher even than itself. The words of the law has exceed its own purpose for being established, holding everyone accountable to black and white is more important than holding everyone accountable for upholding the reasons for the establishment of the law.

I understand that this ideals lie on the trust of just human judgment, based on motives and the heart of a man. This I admit is impossible for all situations, but the situations must be examined and considered according to the foundation of the law, rather than the black and white.

Hannah N said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jeewonk said...

I think it defeats the purpose of having the law in the first place if we break it to uphold it. I understand that the constitution has its limitations and loopholes, and sometimes timing and the circumstances make it almost impossible not to break the law. But what message does that send to the public? It places certain people above the law and contradicts the idea that the law is above everything. I have to agree with Don to a certain extent that as long as the outcome is positive it doesn't matter if the law is broken. But when we say it's "okay" to one case, then that opens up tons of other possibilities of future breaking of law to uphold it, and ultimately it will lead to more harm than good... It's best not to break the law in any circumstances unless it's the last possible way.

Sorry about the late post--I need to check my PIV more often..

Scott-de-la-Trout said...

Well I like to think of myself as a law-abiding, rule-following, trend-setting, gov't serving, overall moral guy, and I think the law should be upheld, because we as voters put the people who made the laws in charge. Of course we can't vote but our parents aren't trying to just mess the bejeebies out of life, as much as we'd like to think they are.
But there are times when laws are arbitrary or the gov't is corrupt, at which case I think Locke got it correct that it is the people responsiblity to overthrow and unjust gov't. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and I don't have all the answers, seeing as how I'm still rather young in age and the wisdom hasn't really set in. What Locke says could lead people to say moral law is just relative to each individual person. But I don't think this is true either, because without a absolute truth, we would drift into anarchy, so I guess I got somemore thinking to do.

Ms. King sorry for being so late, I wrote an apologetic rap for you.

justina said...

In theory, I suppose the end justifies the means, but this doesn't mean that the end was reached in a justifiable way. I think that breaking the law to uphold it is (as most people have stated) wrong in that it goes against the spirit of the law, if not the letter. By accomplishing something in an "immoral" way, you defeat the purpose of having a moral outcome.

tpau said...

I believe that government, the police,ect. should not break the law to uphold it. They have a responibility to their nation to abid by the laws they created to demonstrate trust. If they deliberatly break the law to keep the law it leads to doubts as to what extent they would go to have control. This would lead to governemnt control and less freedom's. Overall for the government it does more harm then good. But I can also see the other side. If a person was not affiliated with the government and a criminal threatened his family I can see how the law could be disregarded behind the safety of loved ones. It doesn't make it right or any good as in the whole nation, but if it saves somone, this person would have to make the choice between breaking the law and suffering the consequences. I'm not saying I would in this situation but there are extrenuating cercumstances.

Elliott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ian Schmid said...

If we break the law to uphold it, what message does that send? Ultimately, does it do more harm than good?

I believe that if one has to break a law to uphold another law, than one of those laws is either pointless, or it contradicts another. So no, I think that one should never have to break a lwaw to uphold another, and if that situaltion does occur, than the laws need to be looked at closely.

B. Wurz said...

I guess I agree for the most part with what Ian S said, about the laws being pointless and needing to be examined closer. I think breaking a law for you consider a "good reason" is usually either to uphold a legal code, or an ethical code. In this case, with the legal code, those laws would certainly be at odds with each other, and it sends the message that the legal system is flawed, or that the ends always justify the means.

Karam said...

I believe that this is a very interesting question to consider. In this case, we see a “the end justifies the means” case which seems to be very understandable and logical in this situation. It is true that removing a criminal from society is always a good thing, but this does not necessarily justify what the man did by impersonating a PD officer. But by saying that what the officer did what for the greater good, or that the “ends justify his means,” it almost sends a message that breaking the law has no boundaries , and it does not matter what crime you commit as long as the outcome of what you did is justified. In this sense, it is dangerous to say that “the ends justify the means.” The context of the actual crime must be taken into consideration as well. In the case of Paulter, there was more good resulting from him breaking the law.
In general, I personally believe that sometimes the law has to be broken for the greater good, especially when (as Shellie stated) there is a net beneficial gain in the end. (Of course, it all depends on the context of the situation.

Nick Jordan said...

I agree with Karam for the most part. I think that personally I would break the law to uphold it for most situations, and that the ends would justify the means. However, it is hard to reconcile this with the way society functions. In the context of the law, I don't think that the ends justify the means, and someone cannot just break the law and justify it for the greater good. The one exception being Batman, who can break the law whenever he pleases in order to uphold the greater good. I trust his judgment. (Justification? -Authority of course) That's what it comes down to I think, trusting someone's judgment. You can trust your own judgment for the most part, and Batman's, but other people's judgment is sometimes harder to accept.
-Nick Jordan (King's class)

CJ said...

Alright, I am posting this for Max as he couldn't log on. These are his words, not mine.

"This question is very interesting because of the very broad implications that arise from any answer. An answer can be found through several different approaches. The first is the familiar method of analyzing the context of the law breaking to determine if it sends a good message and if it is more beneficial than the damage it may cause.

For instance, the lawyer involved in the case Magistrate Jostad discussed with us undoubtedly did aide in ending a criminal threat through impersonation. Removing murders and rapists from the streets in a good thing from an ethical and pragmatic standpoint. However, the ethical and pragmatic questions, the knowledge problems in other words, that are introduced through the impersonation have troubling implications. The justice system seems less credible and the interpretation of the law is called into question.

Looking at this dilemma situationally could lead to a more nuanced judgment, but it in turn weakens the law through requiring that it be continually re-interpreted, making the boundary between crime and justice less defined. This approach results in following the intention of the law, or ethics in general.

An absolute application of the law on the other hand, removing the question of the law's intent or the individual's obligation to follow morals outside of it, would undoubtedly result in a sharper division between crime and justice. Following the letter of the law results in more concrete standards and more agreement, or unity of opinion at least, as to what obligations to ethics and the law are. This approach has many downsides as well. Absolute adherence to solely the letter of the law can more more difficult and illogical than interpreting it situationally.

The ultimate trade offs both approaches share boil down to the choice between exchanging legal certainty for individual justice or a rational interpretation of the law for absolute understanding of it.

Because of our culture's emphasis on the individual and hatred of the arbitrary, the first method seems to have more merit.



Max"