Representing Unpopular Causes & Clients - A Guide to Professionalism in Criminal Defense
We are asked in this field of law, how do you represent people accused of crimes? How do you sleep at night? The answer lies in our duty & is grounded in the same sacred texts those who would question us ascribe to, every Sunday. The object is to serve others even when society has cast them out.
Louisiana Supreme Court: The Code of Professionalism in the Courts & LSBA Code of ProfessionalismRules of the Supreme Court Part G: Section 11.
LAWYERS' DUTIES TO THE COURTS
We will speak and write civilly and respectfully in all communications with the court.
We will be punctual and prepared for all court appearances so that all hearings, conferences, and trials may commence on time; if delayed, we will notify the court and counsel, if possible.
We will be considerate of the time constraints and pressures on the court and court staff inherent in their efforts to administer justice.
We will not engage in any conduct that brings disorder or disruption to the courtroom. We will advise our clients and witnesses appearing in court of the proper conduct expected and required there and, to the best of our ability, prevent our clients and witnesses from creating disorder or disruption.
We will not knowingly misrepresent, mischaracterize, misquote, or miscite facts or authorities in any oral or written communication to the court.
We will not engage in ex parte communication on any pending action.
We will attempt to verify the availability of necessary participants and witnesses before dates for hearings or trials are set, or if that is not feasible, immediately after such date has been set, so we can promptly notify the court of any likely problems.
We will act and speak civilly to court marshals, clerks, court reporters, secretaries, and law clerks with an awareness that they too, are an integral part of the judicial system.
Code of Professionalism
My word is my bond. I will never intentionally mislead the court or other counsel. I will not knowingly make statements of fact or law that are untrue.
I will clearly identify for other counsel changes I have made in documents submitted to me.
I will conduct myself with dignity, civility, courtesy and a sense of fair play.
I will not abuse or misuse the law, its procedures or the participants in the judicial process.
I will consult with other counsel whenever scheduling procedures are required and will be cooperative in scheduling discovery, hearings, the testimony of witnesses and in the handling of the entire course of any legal matter.
I will not file or oppose pleadings, conduct discovery or utilize any course of conduct for the purpose of undue delay or harassment of any other counsel or party. I will allow counsel fair opportunity to respond and will grant reasonable requests for extensions of time.
I will not engage in personal attacks on other counsel or the court. I will support my profession's efforts to enforce its disciplinary rules and will not make unfounded allegations of unethical conduct about other counsel.
I will not use the threat of sanctions as a litigation tactic.
I will cooperate with counsel and the court to reduce the cost of litigation and will readily stipulate to all matters not in dispute.
I will be punctual in my communication with clients, other counsel and the court, and in honoring scheduled appearances.
What is not in the "Code" - Is the true test of Professionalism a Moral One?The obligation to represent those whose causes are unpopular, ignoble, or malodorous.
However, the PUBLIC's sense of our duty demands our accepting this responsibility even when it heaps mud upon those who do. (e.g. Atticus Finch & John Adams)
How many people in here can cast the first stone?
When we are to be adjudged, will we seek justice or ask for mercy?
What then is our true role as professionals in the representation of those who have moral failings?
If we only choose to zealously represent those without sin, who shall we defend? If we refused the leper, the prostitute, the drug user and only took on saints and angels, would we be worthy of our oath?
Nothing is as it first appears...
There is always another side than reported by the police.
We recently represented the president of an "outlaw motor cycle gang" accused of shooting a former member in a bar.
Our client was not the monster reported; rather, he is a hard working loving husband and father who found himself the victim of circumstance. Our client was not the hunter, and was actually the hunted.
The Ethical Obligations of ProsecutorsProsecuting only the right person
Nobody should seek to imprison the innocent. As stated earlier, an arrest is just that; an arrest. It does not mean the person is guilty.
Any person can be arrested merely by words even when those words are not rooted in truth. Where it is abrogated, the grossest miscarriages of justice in all human history are to be found.
Unfortunately, even these innocents are forgotten by the next news cycle in our society.
There is no need to "overbill."
Theoretical vs. provable charges.
Both victims' and defendants' families are caused to suffer from the lengthy process without closure overcharging creates.
For them, the courtroom is foreign terrain, forbidding and without mercy, with citizens on all sides hoping for the opportunity for timely efficient justice.
It is fundamentally wrong and unethical to overbill without realistic belief in proving the case merely to intimidate, coerce or threaten those whose liberty is most jeopardized.
National District Attorneys Standards of Practice
Department of Justice Guidelines
Rules of Professional Responsibility
Finding Justice When The Public is Convinced Your Client Does Not "Deserve" ItWe have all heard of Biblical personages who chose to stand for those accused of capital crimes, risking their reputation and more. Lepers, in particular, were thought to be afflicted with their disease due to their unclean spirit or that of their fathers, and He reached out to them as well.
Who are the pariahs of today's society, and will we have courage to hold out our hand to them as defense lawyers?
This principle also applies to people we represent that we know are guilty. Who can or will delve into the mind of the darkest predators?
There another side as to the why, and does it matter? If we fail to ask, we never will know. This does not mean their conduct should be excused, or the horrors of any completed acts minimized; However, understanding allows for an amazing perspective into who they are as individuals and to attempt to find workable solutions for them and their families.
Have you ever stopped to help someone broken down on the side of the road? When you got out of your car, you did not ask them if they sinned that day, before you helped them, did you?
Likewise, people in the criminal system are broken down and trapped going nowhere. Criminal defense attorneys help them get back onto the road of life.
People aren't born evil. Instead, circumstances of youth dictate whether a young person will understand responsibility, have resources to succeed, and if hope and faith are able to burn within his heart and mind.
Some people have been fortunate to win "God's lottery" as Mark Twain put it, by being born into the right family in America, and sometimes we represent some of them too, but all too often, we are called to help those who have been born into despair.
In many ways, criminal defense requires an almost Jesuit discipline to each case as each case represents a unique soul in crisis.
This is the case!"
If the government turned its icy glance towards you or your family what would you expect from your counsel?
Clarence Darrow - if not more so than it was in the 1920's and 1930's era of the radio and newspaper with instantaneous internet news applications.
Your client will be seen to be guilty when accused even before the police have removed the evidence bags from his residence. It is at times like these he needs an attorney unafraid of the hazards the criminal process entails, but also one who will maintain clarity of judgment in determining strategy and tactics in mounting a successful defense.
Nothing worthwhile in this world was ever easily accomplished, and it is in the struggle against such opposition we, as attorneys, need to find ourselves and be prepared always to shield those clients whose causes are already deemed lost.
If we are to have faith in justice we need only to believe in ourselves and act with justice - The Verdict (1982).
Steel Eyed Focus & the Commitment to this CallingJury trials are not won by sizzle, superstition, or sensationalism. They are won by thorough preparation, and steadfast organization.
Clients are best served in the criminal process by the earliest possible intervention on their behalf by counsel with law enforcement agents and prosecutors.
This work is performed by systematic and detailed research into the law of every case, taking the time to investigate all sides of issues, and the courage to make a stand before a jury, when necessary.
Candor to the court, the prosecutor, and your client is the inherent requisite to professionalism in the practice of criminal defense.
Being able to separate passion for the case or cause from the personalities of prosecutors is just as essential to maintain continuing success in this field.
Many clients' causes are best served by diplomatic communications, seeking individual solutions for your client, and even being able to firmly disagree, at times, in a manner that does not destroy the relationship with the prosecutor.
Our republic is defined by ordered liberty, and only criminal defense attorneys defend the rights of those whose life and liberty are most threatened by the power of the government.
Being a criminal defense lawyer is a special calling. Aside from dealing with the human element discussed above, we fight daily to see government acts within the bounds established by the Bill of Rights. Who else fights against warrantless searches? Confronts accusers? And who else jealously guards your right against self-incrimination, the right to counsel and the right to a speedy and impartial trial?
No one other than the criminal defense lawyer, you do need us on that wall for you, and our Republic.