Jaded lawyers find hope in borough group

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So Timken, a 45-year-old Christian, consulted like-minded colleagues and decided to form the Protestant Law Guild of Queens County, which held its first meeting May 4.

"People in the legal profession are looking for guidance," he said a few weeks ago outside the courthouse in Jamaica.

In the study Timken cited, which was issued by the American Bar Association, the majority of young attorneys who indicated they would leave the profession said they were disillusioned with what the legal system could accomplish for the greater good.

As a negligence lawyer in Manhattan for six years earlier in his career, Timken had felt the same dissatisfaction.

"I often wondered how what I was doing was promoting the social good," he said.

By forming the law guild, Timken hopes to provide an opportunity to discuss and promote justice, righteousness and fairness in the court system in accordance with Christian values.

"It's not going to solve anything," Timken said recently. "But it will provide a forum for members to discuss these issues, such as how do we satisfy our desire to effectuate social justice."

Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox law guilds already exist in Queens, but Timken said his group was the first Protestant one, with a focus on spirituality and not just networking.

The guild has about a dozen members, including clerks, lawyers and judges drawn from State Supreme Court on Sutphin Boulevard and the city Civil Court next door.

Timken said potential members did not necessarily need to be Christians or in the legal profession but should be interested in examining and upholding American legal ethics, many of which are based on Protestant beliefs, he said.

American society is plagued by ethical lapses, such as the Enron scandal, Timken said, and he would like the legal profession to be a beacon. But many Americans view attorneys skeptically and believe the legal system is corrupt, deserved or not, Timken said.

"We're all frustrated by the public perception of lawyers and the judiciary," he said. "That's what we have to work to change."

But in an era of raging debates about abortion, gay marriage and other contentious social issues, Timken said he did not anticipate the guild trying to change the legal code or influence policy.

"It's more of an ethical focus, how you apply your religious values to what you do as a profession," he said, noting that the guild would not meet on court premises or on court time. "We're all duty-bound to apply the law as written."

But on a recent Thursday as several members of the nascent group gathered during their lunch break outside Civil Court, the wide range of their political and ideological beliefs became apparent.

"I'm not sure we might not get there one day," said Judge Deighton Waithe of Housing Court, speaking about changing laws to reflect Christian values.

"Everyone has different ideas about how it will eventually evolve," said Judge James Grayshaw, also of Housing Court. "To me, it's more of a personal, introspective journey."

Prospective members can contact Timken at 917-533-8080 or e-mail him at

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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