Yes, The Best Criminal Defense Lawyers Represent The Worst People. Or You.

When your life is at stake and you need help, don't screw around.

When your life is at stake and you need help, don’t screw around.

The degree to which the average American, even the average educated American, even the average educated and rational American, is ignorant about the ethical mandates and structure of the legal profession and the justice system is by turns shocking, depressing, and frightening. The consequences of this ignorance, for which the legal profession itself is largely to blame, bursts forth in all their ugly splendor after the acquittal of a Casey Anthony or, even more disturbingly, a George Zimmerman. Well meaning members of the public, who are nicely represented in this Ethics Alarms thread, think they are declaring their support for justice when they advocate cutting through all the troublesome bureaucracy and making sure what “everyone knows” is the correct result happens, and process be damned. Just do the right thing! How hard can that be?  This blogger, for example, has it all figured out. Leave it to him and people of a like mind, and we’ll have a police state in no time.

Making this false analysis plausible is the ancient distrust of lawyers, the profession whose other label, “attorney,’ comes from an old French word for “one who is trusted.” There are bad lawyers, corrupt lawyers and incompetent lawyers out there, no doubt about it, but they are a very small percentage of the profession as a whole. The rest worry about and think about what is right and wrong, I think, a lot more than other professions, and one of the reasons they don’t work as hard as I think they should to educate the public about the legal system that serves it is that the legal profession detects no hint that non-lawyers, after centuries of bias and misconceptions, are capable of learning. Maybe they are right.

Today, on XM-Sirius’s MLB channel, I listened to two commentators mocking the fact that Yankee star Alex Rodriquez, now appealing a long ban from the sport because of his alleged steroid use, has hired the famous defense lawyer Joe Tacopina to face down Major League Baseball. Naturally, the two radio jocks agreed, this proves that Arod is guilty, after all, look at the other clients Tacopina has represented. “This guy defended  Van der Sloot!” one of them crowed. ( He is the  man suspected of killing teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba. ) “What does that tell you?” And they laughed.

It tells us this: Tacopina is an excellent and courageous lawyer who knows that the clients who are assumed to be guilty (like Alex Rodriguez: I think he’s guilty as hell) are also the ones whose rights are most likely to be trampled on and violated, and thus the individuals most likely to be the victims of a miscarriage of justice. Judging a lawyer to be an unethical professional because of the character of his clients is cognitive dissonance at its worst and most deceptive, because it is usually the best lawyers who represent the worst clients….and also the most vulnerable clients. They don’t like these people (necessarily) or what they may have done. They do honor the system that requires a stringent process before taking away a citizen’s freedom or property.

Every criminal defense lawyer cherishes Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2 b. which says,

(b) A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.

Yet so many people seem incapable of accepting this; they just can’t get their heads around it. I know it drives lawyers crazy.

Look:

  • Alex Rodriguez has the right to avail himself of every legal remedy and defense, just like you.
  • Innocent or guilty, it doesn’t matter: he wants to avoid serious penalties for what he did or is accused of doing.
  • Biases are powerful, and there is a strong human tendency to assume that anyone accused of wrongdoing is a wrongdoer. Overcoming those biases requires a great deal of skill.
  • The lawyers who have acquired the most skill in overcoming those biases are, naturally enough, those who have honed their skills representing the clients who generated the most bias against themselves.
  • These lawyers are, therefor, the most likely professionals to be able to protect the rights of any client, guilty or innocent.
  • The fact that Rodriguez has hired a lawyer with remarkable success in defending infamous clients, therefore, does not mean that he is guilty, or that Tacopina likes to help bad people. It means that he wants the best available lawyer to ensure that he is treated fairly, and someone with Tacopina’s record is such a lawyer.

Plus the fact that Arod can afford him.

He charges over 700 dollars an hour.

OK, maybe Joe’s not likely to be your lawyer after all.

But if you could afford him, you’d want him.

___________________________

Sources: ABC, Yankee 101

 

 

20 thoughts on “Yes, The Best Criminal Defense Lawyers Represent The Worst People. Or You.

  1. I’ve always said if I ever need a lawyer it will be the best one out there….and in A-Rod’s case….he certainly needs the best one out there. He is has the right to hire who he wants and his lawyer has the right to accept him as his client. Cha ching….

  2. Whoa! Just read the post you highlighted by the blogger “who has it figured out”. That comes pretty close to one of the scariest rants I have read in quite a while. The comments praising him because “he gets it” are even scarier. Honestly, this whole ignorant mob mentality is just plain depressing at times.

    • Whoa! Just read the post you highlighted by the blogger “who has it figured out”. That comes pretty close to one of the scariest rants I have read in quite a while. The comments praising him because “he gets it” are even scarier. Honestly, this whole ignorant mob mentality is just plain depressing at times.
      *******************
      Sometimes I wonder if there is more behind it than ignorance.
      Brainwashing, perhaps.

    • The comments praising him because “he gets it” are even scarier.

      What? Maybe we’re looking at different comments. In the thread I’m looking at, every single comment that is a direct reply to the article is disagreeing with the author, mostly in quite strong terms. The only one that says something like “he gets it” is the one that starts “Finally, someone who understands…”, but it rapidly becomes clear that the commenter in question is being sarcastic.

      Personally, after reading the article I was about ready to run outside and kick a badger in the face. But reading the comments went quite some way in restoring my faith in humanity.

      (Apologies to Jack if this comment appears multiple times, WordPress is playing up.)

      • Philwild…thanks for pointing that out. I went back and looked over the comments and you are correct. I feel much better after reading that he was called out on that idiotic rant. And I’m glad you didn’t kick a badger in the face.

  3. It is the most obviously guilty who require the most skilled and vigerous of defenses. The State’s case must be put to the most rigerous test before a man or woman’s liberty is to be taken away.

    If the state can not make its case, they deserve to lose and the person freed. Period.

    Any suggestion to the contrary is to begin to champion a scraping, toadying, subservient, statist view where the State simply decides who is guilty, and Due Process be damned.

  4. While it’s very true about the right to a vigorous defense, it just is galling that quite often those best able to afford the best lawyers are those like A-Rod, who can pour the fruits of his cheating into a fantastic defense while those like Justin Carter are stuck praying for some magic combination of donations and pro bono assistance.

    Rodriguiez’s ability do funnel his cheated wealth into a defense is just like his ability to fight the punishment while still earning a truckload of money: Taking advantage of a good system to enable his bad actions. Unfortunately there’s no way to stop bad actors without screwing over good actors, so it has to be accepted as the cost of doing business.

    • Justin Carter isn’t being cheated by a lack of money.

      He’s being cheated by a populace completely uneducated in civics and completely undisciplined. He’s being cheated by all of us.

      • I know a lack of money isn’t the root of his problems, I’m saying it’s frustrating to see Rodriguez using the money he got through cheating to hire a lawyer to enable him to continue profiting from cheating, while a kid getting screwed by the system will probably not have legal representation that’s even close to the same quality.

  5. I don’t question the right of the guilty to have a lawyer. I question that only people with a lot more money than people I know can have any hope to get effective representation because they can’t pay the premium. Justice being for sale leads to a lot of cynicism, possibly including those DJs.

    • Your logic doesn’t make sense. How does the representation gap between the poor and rich lead to thinking that retaining a lawyer who has represented bad people imply that you are bad?

      • No, I don’t question anyone getting a lawyer. I don’t assume the lawyer is bad because he/she often represents someone who seems guilty. I’m speaking more finding someone good is out of reach for too many as they don’t have any money. ARod can afford top of the line. If they don’t have that 700$ they have no hope of getting passable representation.

        • I didn’t say you questioned the right to get a lawyer. The problem in your post was the last sentence: “Justice being for sale leads to a lot of cynicism, possibly including those DJs.”

          To me, that looks like you’re suggesting that the DJs assumption of guilt based on the lawyer can be excused based on legitimate cynicism about a different issue of the criminal justice system. I deny that.

  6. You have a point. The defense counsel appointed to represent General Homma who was found to be responsible for the atrocities on the “Bataan Death March” during WW2 was not exactly thrilled with the prospect of representing him in a military tribunal. But Homma was entitled to an adequate defense to determine the extent of his culpability

  7. The practice of law is easy. How do I know? Look at all the experts who haven’t even stepped foot into a law school! Blogs are full of them. After all, the whole legal system thing isn’t that hard to figure out. It’s about doing what is fair and right and that surely isn’t so hard to figure out, now is it?
    With all these experts, I’m not even sure why we even have evil defense attorneys anymore. Surely, such experts will defend themselves if that need should ever arise. Further, why do we have prosecutors? They are just as corrupt! Why should my hard earned money go to paying some corrupt prosecutor to prosecute people who are so obviously guilty? Now…let me find a suitable scapegoat to blame this mess of a legal system on and we can get the whole court system disbanded and let the real experts take over. People who KNOW what is fair!!

    Does anyone know where I can get a pitchfork for a good price?

  8. The practice of law is easy. How do I know? Look at all the experts who haven’t even stepped foot into a law school! Blogs are full of them. After all, the whole legal system thing isn’t that hard to figure out.
    ********************************
    You nailed it!

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