Even Bad People Deserve Good Lawyers

>> Sunday, January 11, 2009

The NYT has a piece up on the upcoming confirmation of Erik Holder as Attorney General. This piece focuses on the increased opposition from Republicans in the Senate who are "concerned" about the clients that Mr. Holder represented while in private practice. They seem to believe that there will be conflicts of interest so great that it prevents Holder from doing his job. Now we will put aside the fact that this comes from the GOP the party of corporations, big business, and corruption. Let sexamine exactly what the GOP is alleging here about lawyers role in society, the criminal justice system, and civil dispute resolution.

From the Times,

“We’ve had eight years of an administration that turned a blind eye to corporate criminals,” said Terry Collingsworth, a Washington lawyer who is suing Chiquita over the Colombian protection money and is facing Mr. Holder in the case. “We need someone with his level of experience and cachet to clean up the Justice Department. Yet I do have a concern and I sure hope that he doesn’t carry over his corporate defense practice into his approach to the job and how he handles these types of cases.”

When the National Football League was facing a legal and public-relations disaster in 2007 over a dogfighting scandal involving the Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, it turned to Mr. Holder to help navigate the maelstrom and represent the league. The pharmaceutical giant Merck tapped him as its lawyer in a Medicaid overbilling case that ended in a $671 million civil settlement. And Rod R. Blagojevich, the now-impeached governor of Illinois, picked him, albeit briefly, to investigate for the state a controversy over a casino development and its possible ties to organized crime.

Already, Mr. Holder’s brief association with Mr. Blagojevich has drawn scrutiny from Republicans, who are waging a more spirited campaign against Mr. Holder’s nomination than many had anticipated. Until now, most of the scrutiny has focused on controversies during the nominee’s time as deputy attorney general at the end of the Clinton administration, particularly his role in the pardon of the fugitive financier Marc Rich.

In responding to written questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Holder made no mention of a 2004 announcement in which Mr. Blagojevich introduced him as a “special investigator” under a $300,000 contract with the state.

The appointment fell through, and Mr. Holder’s aides said his failure to mention the episode had been an oversight that was soon corrected. But some Republicans said they were troubled by the omission. Three Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee — Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, John Cornyn of Texas and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa — sent the governor’s office a Freedom of Information Act request last week seeking documents on the aborted agreement.

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, sharply questioned Mr. Holder’s character and political independence in a speech last week on the Senate floor. Mr. Specter told reporters Friday that he wanted to see more information about Mr. Holder’s private practice, to assess whether he was up to the job of attorney general.

I am sure they are very excited about the Blago link. These Republicans were untroubled by the incompetent people who have filled every executive department under Bush. They were untroubled by the mess created at the DOJ under Bush where the law was bent and malformed to suit their purposes. They were perfectly fine with the unqualified lawyers and severely skewed priorities. Instead they have been full throated supporters and enablers of Bush and his ridiculous legal policies. Now they want to come out and attack Holder for representing clients who need a defense.

I have a big problem with those who attack defense lawyers. Under our system of laws everyone is entitled to a defense. Murderers and Rapists and Corporations are all entitled to a defense. This means that someone must be there to defend them. Someone has to do that. Our system cannot function without a proper defense. Otherwise those who were forced to become involved in the system would have no confidence in its ability to meet out justice. If you were accused of a crime you did not commit yet everyone thought you had you might not end up with a competent defense without good lawyers to defend you.

Even those people who have in fact committed crimes deserve a defense. In those cases we can keep the system honest. Make sure the prosecution proves their case Beyond a reasonable doubt and that they did not violate the laws to do so. Unless those accused of misdeeds can have a good defense the prosecution will simply run over the innocent as well as the guilty.

I differentiate lawyers who defend the guilty from ad execs or people like mark penn because corporations are not entitled to a good public image. we might function better if the general public was not being sold on a rehabbed image of an amoral corporation.

Everyone is entitled to good defense. If the republicans succeed in killing the Holder nomination because he represented some big corporate clients it would be a blow to our very foundation of justice.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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