Try Every Case

Every group of young lawyers has discussed the same topic at one point in their “Hey guys, let’s go to lunch” careers. What if we refused to bargain cases and force them all to trial?

Oh, it sounds amazing to those young, bright-eyed lawyers. We could turn the justice system and prosecutors on their ears. Wouldn’t that be great to “crash the system?” Ultimately, though, we returned to work and a more experienced lawyer bludgeoned us with the time-honored concept of “If you ever confuse your interests with those of your client(s), I’ll smack the shit out of you.”

Then, we go back to work, realizing that we were silly and immature. Now, the NY Times enters the lunchtime conversation with an article by Michelle Alexander (never a criminal-defense lawyer, as far as I know).

Several bloggers already weighed-in, and I’ll let their statements address this concept fully.

First, Brian Tannebaum with a fairly simple directive:

And so now the New York Times has an article about the notion discussed by every PD and private criminal defense lawyer at every bar since the beginning of plea bargaining, of trying every criminal case in order to collapse the system.

Here’s my response:

Shut the f*ck up.

Then, Norm Pattis is a bit more instructive in his assessment:

Only fools, the naive and bad propagandists look for “justice” in the criminal courts. Clarence Darrow nailed it a century ago: “There is no justice in or out of court.” All that exists are interests. A criminal defense lawyer who puts his sense of justice ahead of his client’s interest has no business appearing in court. None.

Then, Gideon, a public defender in Connecticut, thumps Ms. Alexander squarely between the eyes:

Only someone who hasn’t had to repeatedly stand by clients as they are led away to serve weeks, months and years would offer up those same clients as lambs to the slaughter. Only someone who purports to be a civil rights lawyer but uses the phrase “court-appointed lawyer” when “lawyer” would suffice would propose an idea to destabilize the system at the expense of real, living, breathing people without acknowledging the disastrous consequences.

Yep, got it.