Friday, February 16, 2007

To Support (Lie) Protect (Lie) and Defend (Lie) The Constitution

In this month's Champion Magazine, NACDL President Marty Pinales takes to task politicians that used political ads in the last election to attack criminal defense lawyer candidates who have represented defendants in criminal cases.

Here's some examples of ads attacking criminal defense lawyers from the article:

Criticizism of public defender Connie Pillich for “representing criminals.” As Pinales astutely notes: "That was her job — advocating for defendants who did not have enough money for a lawyer. It is imperative that our justice system protects the poor, little-known defendant just as aggressively as it protects the powerful and the celebrated. This race included fliers that incumbent Jim Raussen refused to denounce, sent out by a political party that stated that Pillich “defends the worst of the worst.” The fliers showed a set of handcuffs latched around a cell phone bearing the words “Just call Connie.”

Attack ads of Ohio attorney general candidate Betty Montgomery stating that her opponent, state Sen. Marc Dann, was not qualified for the job because he had defended child molesters. The ad showed an actor, who looked like Dann, sitting in a courtroom with his arm around a tattooed prisoner. Ohioans elected Dann anyway as Ohio’s new attorney general."

In Massachusetts' gubernatorial race,attack ads criticized lawyer-candidate Deval Patrick, who defeated Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey. Healey said that Patrick was “soft on crime” because he once represented a criminal seeking parole. When the issue surfaced during a debate between the candidates, Patrick said, “I have on occasion represented the unsavory defendant. And you better be glad somebody does because that’s what puts the justice in the justice system. I don’t apologize for that.”

As Pinales summarizes in this article of great quotes from him about justice:

"Lawyers do not always choose their clients. But the type of client a lawyer represents should not determine the lawyer’s suitability for public office. Negative attack ads that imply criminal defense lawyers have the same ethics and morals as convicted criminals strike low blows that denigrate the constitutional right to counsel.

And here's a call to arms from President Pinales:

"In 2007, it is our duty, as members of NACDL and the criminal defense bar, to speak out against candidates that resort to attacking an opponent’s character because he or she has represented people accused of a crime. We should also urge our states’ campaign ethics committees to set standards regulating attack ads against attorneys doing their jobs as criminal defense advocates."

I just want to know how these people can swear under oath to "support, protect, and defend the Constitution, while knowing they've already broken that vow.



Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense attorney in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com