Even Hypocrites Deserve A Defense

It was true for Ron Sullivan. It was true for Hillary Clinton. And it’s true for Alan Dershowitz.

And then there’s Dershowitz, whose past clients have included such sterling fellows as Epstein, Claus von Bülow, O.J. Simpson and Harvey Weinstein. How did he miss Ted Bundy? Still, Dershowitz has put himself on the side of an impressive pantheon of villainy in the realm of violence against girls and women.

That’s from Maureen Dowd. No doubt she would spew the empty mantra that everyone deserves a defense, because saying otherwise would be too obviously wrong, but when put to the test of defense in action, she’s just as much of a flaming hypocrite as the rest. Her prosaic “impressive pantheon of villainy” is less the key to her flagrant hypocrisy than the “put himself on the side of,” Dersh’s offense being that he chose to defend “those people.”

That’s what we do. We defend people accused of crime. Sometimes petty. Sometimes horrific. Sometimes our clients are innocent, but sometimes they’re very guilty. Some cases are huge, in the papers, on the telly, in the discussions over the back fence and amongst facile pundits. Lawyers take on these cases because that’s what we do, and criminal defense lawyers defend people accused of being criminals. Big cases or small, we defend. Easy cases or hard, we defend. Good defendants or bad, we defend.

And for this, you attack Dersh? Because he’s been retained to defend people accused of heinous crimes in some extremely high profile cases, he’s evil because he defends those you deem evil? Sure, even the evil deserve a defense, but not by him. He chose to defend these evil people, proving that he loves this “impressive pantheon of villainy”?

Dersh can be shredded for the arguments he makes on behalf of his clients. They’re fair game. And indeed, the position he’s publicly stated in defense against impeachment, that “abuse of power” falls short of the constitutional basis for impeachment under the “high crimes and misdemeanors” standard, leaves much to be substantively desired from a scholarly perspective. But not that he defended bad dudes before, thereby making him the sort of lawyer who adores bad dudes and the bad dude things they do. In this case, “violence against girls and women,” like Hillary loves rape because she defended a rapist.

There are some peculiar aspects to defending Trump. He’s got a bad history for stiffing people. He won’t be controlled or follow directions. There’s a good chance that he will embarrass any lawyer who represents him by spewing something wildly inane that contradicts whatever his lawyer will argue.

And, of course, he’s so hated by a substantial percentage of the population that their blind fury toward Trump will spill over onto the lawyer, just because people can’t manage to separate the lawyer from the client. Stupid as it may be, it seems impossible to prevent, even as Maureen Dowd does it again to Dersh, tainting him by some cherry-picked bad dudes because the Pope hasn’t yet needed Dersh to defend him. Actually, even that’s a bad example these days.

Non-lawyers lack the capacity to grasp what lawyers do, and make the associations that make sense given their combination of ignorance and gestalt. That it’s preceded by the weasel word “maybe” doesn’t absolve the terminally hypocritical of the connections drawn, from Trump to Epstein to “bad people.” And like every midwit apologist, the platitude gets trotted out on the backend to rationalize why the hypocrisy isn’t as flagrant as it clearly is.

Maybe. Also possible. Though numerous attorneys have turned town Trump before. Regardless, “maybe people didn’t want to do it” is very different from “no one should do it.” Every defendant deserves counsel.

Let’s do the hypocrite’s math.

Decent lawyers don’t chose to defend bad people.
Every defendant deserve counsel.
This defendant is a bad person.
Any lawyer who chooses to defend him is indecent.

There is nothing here that’s going to change the hypocrite’s argument, as it’s low hanging fruit. The logical fallacy of ad hominem has a long history of effectiveness with the useful idiots. Frankly, any argument that colorably supports their feelz will be effective for those who lack the capacity to reason or the integrity to be intellectually honest. Hey, if it serves to smear the people they want so badly to taint, that’s good enough for the hypocrites.

So criminal defense lawyers will perpetually be tainted by the work they do. Even public defenders have come up with their own self-serving rationale to maintain their personal virtue at the expense of lawyers who get dirty lucre to defend dirty people.

After all, they have no choice of whom to defend, and so they can’t be personally responsible for being directed to defend the worst dregs of humanity. Private criminal defense lawyers can turn down a case, and so when they take a case, they affirmatively choose to associate with scum. If they chose to defend bad people, it must be because they like bad people, they like bad people’s crimes. They like crimes, even “violence against girls and women.”

There are many factors that go into the decision to take on a representation or turn it down, from getting paid to being sufficiently capable of giving the client the zealous defense we are obligated to do. The two factors that do not enter the equation is whether the defendant is an awful person or the crime is heinous. These are the people who need a defense. These are the people we defend.

If you want to attack us for doing so, for doing our job, for fulfilling our duty, for putting the government to the test and fulfilling the promise of the Constitution, while earning a living doing so, then you don’t deserve us when it’s your turn to be accused. And yet, we will defend you when your time comes, even though you’ve been a flaming hypocrite about damning us for our damnable clients. Because that’s what we do.

13 thoughts on “Even Hypocrites Deserve A Defense

  1. Hunting Guy

    Charles Dickens.

    “It is a pleasant world we live in, sir, a very pleasant world. There are bad people in it, Mr. Richard, but if there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.”

    (This is not a tummy rub, it’s just a quote that I thought fit your post.)

          1. Guitardave

            Yeah. Someone should show it to wannabe CDL’s and say, do you understand you’ll have to zealously defend the ass-hats driving the Beemer’s?…

  2. Richard Kopf


    I read Ms. Dowd’s column that is the subject of your post. Generally speaking, I love her work.

    But the piece about which you write is thoughtless, unfair to CDLs generally, unfair to those who have joined the Trump defense team and the Dersh specifically. The subtitle was awful: “President Trump reaches deep into the perv barrel for his defense team.”

    I got to thinking. If I was to write a column about her and wanted to slime her as she has just slimed a whole profession (including, by the way, Jane Rashkin, a former trial lawyer with the Fed’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section’s Boston Strike Force ), I would unearth a hook upon which to hang my slime.

    This might work. Miss Dowd is the daughter of an Irish Catholic cop who used to kick in doors (and most probably people) during prohibition and thereafter while making his rounds in D.C. I could suggest that the apple does not fall far from the tree. Criminal defense lawyers undoubtedly made her father’s life tougher than it might otherwise have been. As daddy’s little red-headed avenging angel, I might write that Ms. Dowd is very much into payback. I would conclude by noting that payback is a bitch, while disavowing a double entendre.

    Would the foregoing be fair? Intellectually honest? Accurate? Of course not. But at this point, those things don’t matter much anymore. The sad thing is that Ms. Dowd is far too good a writer and a thinker to publish this manure.

    All the best.

  3. Jay

    Sure but you’re adopting her false equivalency. Trump isn’t charged with a crime. Just ask him. This is a purely political process. And yeah you can e.v. Debs and say everyone is a political prisoner but this isn’t about sending Trump to prison, it’s about whether he’s fit to be president.

    Anyway Dersh has said some of the worst, most unflattering things about cdls and our clients. So fuck him.

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