“A feminist lawyer like Estrich taking on the same clients men do? That’s outr…wait, what side am I on again?”
Fired Fox News creator Roger Aisle hired renowned feminist lawyer and teacher Susan Estrich to defend him against the sexual harassment law suit filed by former Fox Blonde Gretchen Carlson. Responding to shock and disappointment among some feminists and others that Estrich would “abandon her principles” to defend such a client, Slate’s feminism reporter Nora Caplan-Bricker authored a post titled “The One Good Reason for a Trailblazing Feminist Lawyer to Defend Roger Ailes.”
This is in the category of a supposedly enlightening post that actually makes readers less informed. There only needs to be one Reason for a Trailblazing Feminist Lawyer to Defend Roger Ailes, and it is a great reason. Susan Estrich is a lawyer; lawyers defend people who are sued; lawyers do not have to agree with, support or approve of a client’s alleged actions requiring such a defense; and there’s is no reason in legal ethics or any other ethical system that argues that a U.S. citizen shouldn’t have access to the best representation possible.
For her part, Estrich has said that she is taking the case because “The individual gets convicted long before he or she has had an opportunity to defend himself. And that’s not fair, whether it is happening to a woman or a man.” That’s the civil law equivalent of the late Johnnie Cochran defending his accepting O.J. as a client by saying, “In this country, everyone has the right to be treated as innocent until found guilty by a jury of his peers.”
Partial translation of both statements: “I’m a lawyer, and I don’t judge my clients. That’s not my job. My job is to help them use the law and legal system for their own purposes and protection, like any other citizen.”
I’ve written about this aspect of lawyers’ vital function in society, one that non-lawyers just cannot seem to grasp, so many times. Here’s a recent post; but maybe this one from 2015 is more on point. That one was about progressive legal icon and Harvard law prof Larry Tribe representing Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, in a lawsuit that sought to invalidate some EPA regulations adverse to their horrible, evil, earth-destroying–but legal!–business. Tribe was called a traitor to the Cause of turning the U.S. into a wind and solar run nation, and I explained that the attacks on him, like all such attacks, were based on a stubborn lack of comprehension by non-lawyers, writing..
That is what lawyers do, and what they exist to do: represent citizens and companies as they seek to avail themselves of their guaranteed right to use the law to protect their interests. The public and media just don’t get it, and appear to be immune from educating on the subject: what your lawyer personally believes about your cause doesn’t matter. His or her job isn’t to judge you or your purpose. It is to give you the chance to use your rights to due process and the courts to have the law work for you rather than against you, and to have your position, if legal, serious and offered sincerely, represented by the best legal talent available. Whether or not Tribe personally believes or supports the position being taken by his client is irrelevant to his role, unless he is so unprofessional (as in emotional and unable to overcome his own biases) that he can’t represent a client whose objectives he opposes. Then he would be obligated to refuse the representation. Then he would also be a poor lawyer, and Lawrence Tribe is anything but.
Replace “Larry Tribe” in that paragraph with “Susan Estrich”, and save me some time.
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