Perusing the paper this morning, I see political endorsements are in full swing at three a day. Two of the three races mentioned today included prosecutors running for the spot.
Although neither prosecutor was endorsed, there was noticeably absent any other type of lawyer, including of course a criminal defense lawyer.
Currently, depending on who you ask, 17% percent of the Florida Legislature are lawyers (Cue the "that's too many, lawyers suck" crowd). Some say it's less. Of course this doesn't account for those who call themselves "lawyer" but don't practice.
Running for office as a prosecutor is like walking in to the dance as the pretty girl without a date. It creates automatic attention.
Former prosecutors are even more fascinating. If an estate planning lawyer is running for office, and worked as a prosecutor for 5 minutes, he's not an estate planning lawyer running for office, he's a former prosecutor. Hey, whatever it takes to get elected. Who the hell cares about an estate planning lawyer anyway? No one went to jail. Any lawyer who runs for office and spent some time locking people up, makes it a point to let the public know. The public has always found some correlation between prosecutors and good law, even though the country is broke, foreclosures are out of control, public schools are a disgrace, and state health care programs are failing, it's always good to have a former or current prosecutor in office. At least the masses wont be given the key to the jail. That would ruin everything.
And of course there's the criminal defense lawyers who run for office. The few. Right now there are three criminal defense lawyers running for the legislature in Florida. To their credit, they all mention criminal defense experience. They mention it. None highlight it as if representing people charged with crimes gives them some knowledge of how the constitution and statutes work in practice. That's a no no. One criminal defense lawyer/former prosecutor candidate headlines her bio with:
Distinguished Law Record- Tough on Crime
Having a legislature full of prosecutors, or those who believe their only relevant experience is that of a prosecutor or former prosecutor, is like having a courthouse where there are no defense lawyers, no one to balance the cry for more jails, more minimum mandatories, more criminal offenses for every known type of conduct. Would things be better if legislatures were all Republicans or all Democrats? Some say yes. They're ignorant.
Criminal defense lawyers as a group rarely run for office. The anti-government mentality of many of us means that we don't want to be part of the process. We feel better cursing the problem than trying to be a part of the solution. I wish more criminal defense lawyers would run for office. I wish the public would appreciate the presence of a defender of liberty.
But until criminal defense lawyers are included in two out of three elections in a day of newspaper endorsements, the public will continue to see a criminal defense lawyer running as the exception, instead of the norm.
And people don't like the exception. They like the norm.
Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Post to Twitter
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