It’s not just for the fabulous wealth, prestige and public adoration that criminal defense lawyers put their butts on the line to speak out against the wrongs of the legal system and its power players. And sometimes, maybe more often than anyone realizes, the targets of criticism decide to pay the lawyer back. Fresno criminal defense lawyer and blawger at Probable Cause, Rick Horowitz, found this out yesterday.
I have thought, for some time now, that I knew just how bad things were getting in the United States, in terms of us becoming a police state.
Today, I was shown just how wrong I am.
In fact, I didn’t know the half of how bad things have really gotten.
To be clear, as bad as the stories and videos that appear on CDL blawgs may be, there is a reasonable anticipation that we, lawyers, officers of the court as some like to remind us as if that means something, aren’t in the direct line of fire. They may hate us, but they won’t touch us. So we believe.
This morning, when I arrived at the Juvenile Justice Court for a case, I found four or five deputies at the front. A deputy district attorney was walking ahead of me. She went through the metal detector without stopping, and (I assume, based on the direction she was heading) on to her office. I put my bag on the x-ray machine belt, as always, and pulled out my identification to show, as always. But I was stopped.
“You have to empty your pockets.”
“What?,” I asked.
“You have to empty your pockets.”
Then came the story, the one they make up to justify what they’re doing. It may sound remotely credible, but it’s a lie. An excuse. Making up excuses for doing whatever they’re going to do anyway is a core talent of law enforcement. Of course, we’re not supposed to say this because it detracts from the dignity of the system. But make no mistake, it’s a set up.
And then one of them told me it was because of my blog post yesterday. He even specifically referenced the sentence that they found so offensive. “So now you’re a security risk,” I was told.
Because of something I wrote. Something which — I will admit — was offensive.
So Rick offended them. And so he would pay for his offense. What was so offensive isn’t clear, as Rick has removed it from his blawg after he decided that it was more offensive than he intended, but notably fueling the anger by writing about their payback.
At any rate, the overreaction of the department today shows just how dangerous they can be. And, in fact, I suspect that’s just the start. It will not surprise me if something happens to me for what I’ve written. At least a few attorneys — including me — think that there was a plan in place this morning to set up a situation where I could be given a beatdown, which almost certainly would have been followed by criminal charges against me for “resisting arrest,” or “assaulting an officer,” or something similar to that.
Because that happens to more people than you could possibly imagine, more often than you would believe. And, as I said, there is reason to believe they were trying to set it up — reason enough that another attorney decided to stick around “just in case.” (Which is probably why it didn’t happen.)
There would have been damn good reason for Rick to have challenged his treatment, The idea that his criticism, offensive or otherwise, was cause for a lawyer to be subjected to an intrusive search that no other lawyer goes through because he spoke ill of law enforcement is an outrage and an affront to every blawger. And his musing, that had he gotten angry and challenged their rifling through his briefcase, where his client files are held in sanctity, the next step would have been a loud protest followed by the sound of flesh being pounded.
Instead of a post about how Rick Horowitz was treated as payback for saying something mean about the Fresno sheriff, this would be a story about how he was beaten and charged with resisting arrest. There would be a press conference about how a lawyer went nuts as they were just doing their job, protecting the public against imminent threat, and the lawyer turned belligerent and violent. They had to protect themselves from this maniac. They just had to.
But Rick was neither a maniac nor a fool. He kept his cool. He refused to play into their hands. He gave them absolutely no cause for a beating, and was fortunate that another criminal defense lawyer stayed with him so that there would be a witness to any lies that might be offered to justify what might come next.
How offensive was Rick’s criticism? It doesn’t matter. Payback for being critical of law enforcement in a blawg is intolerable. Rick has had much to say about his perception of the police state and the dwindling options available to us to stop the decline. His voice has no doubt angered those who depend on the love and ignorance of the public for compliance to their authority. He has pissed people off.
But Rick Horowitz will not suffer the indignity and payback in silence. And every blawger, and reader, and judge, and person, should be aware that this is how the Fresno sheriff tried to teach Rick Horowitz a lesson.
Update: After this ball started rolling, some others felt it appropriate to not merely add their voice in Rick’s defense, but to disclose what Rick had written and subsequently deleted. Most exercised the discretion to honor Rick’s decision to delete the offending language, even though it was readily available by cache if someone felt the need for the titallating details. It was not my place to reveal what Rick chose to delete.
I would not have written what Rick wrote. If I had written it, I wouldn’t have deleted it. But Rick did, and that was his choice. I can understand why he made that choice, even if it was not the same choice I would have made. That said, it was not my place to “out” him by including the deleted language, nor was it relevant to the post. While it was a curious aside, it was only an aside.
The point of the post is what the Frenso Sheriff did to Rick for having written something on his blawg that was critical of them and they found offensive. It doesn’t matter, to me at least, what he wrote. Apparently, it mattered enough to others that they chose to “out” the language Rick deleted. I strongly disagree with that choice, and I regret my role in starting this ball rolling that ended with people who felt it was their place to “out” Rick Horowitz rather than honor his decision to delete it.