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Republicans Against The Sixth Amendment

Attorney In Court

The Republican Governors Association is out with an ad attacking Nikki Haley’s Democratic opponent that may well be one of worst campaign ads in recent memory:

If you want to run for office some day, you better not believe that everyone is entitled to legal counsel before the government locks them away. Or, at least, that’s the message sent by a new Republican Governors Association ad targeting Vincent Sheheen, a former prosecutor who now represents civil and criminal clients in private practice. Sheheen is a Democratic candidate for governor against incumbent Nikki Haley (R-SC).

The RGA’s ad attacks Sheheen for “defend[ing] violent criminals” and ends with the tagline “Vincent Sheheen protects criminals not South Carolina.”

The implication of this ad is that Sheheen is somehow unfit for public office because he once provided legal counsel to people accused of crimes. Indeed, the ad lists several serious crimes, including sex offenses and child abuse, that Sheheen’s clients were accused of committing. It is likely that many of these clients are very, very bad people.

Here’s the ad:

Ed Kilgore comments:

You’d think the “constitutional conservatives” of the Republican Party might be aware there’s an item in the Bill of Rights—the Sixth Amendment to be precise—that guarantees those accused of criminal acts the right to “the assistance of counsel.” A really deep-thinking constitutional conservative might even understand that we don’t know who the “criminals” are until they are given a fair trial. In an especially despicable little twist, the anonymous narrator of this ad twice notes that Sheheen was paid for defending “violent criminals who abused women.” Would it have been better if he had represented them for free?

And Steve Benen notes that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Republicans attack attorneys for, well, doing their job:

In early March, the Senate rejected Debo Adegbile, President Obama’s nominee as an assistant attorney general, in large part because members in both parties forgot a rather basic American principle: attorneys are not supposed to be judged by the crimes of their clients.

In the case of Adegbile’s nomination, we saw an extremely well-qualified attorney with a classic American background – he’s the child of a mixed-race family, who overcame poverty to become an accomplished Supreme Court litigator – who was nevertheless rejected by the Senate. Adegbile worked on the legal team that successfully persuaded a federal court to commute Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death sentence.

The basic implication of this ad, of course, is that Sheheen is not fit to be Governor of South Carolina because he represents guilty people for money. Indeed, it’s hard to garner any other lesson from the ad other than this. What makes it so despicable is the fact that the RGA is essentially attacking Shaheen for doing something that is absolutely essential to the proper functioning of our justice system. Having access to counsel is a right guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, and the rest of the rights that people are entitled to when accused of crimes would be meaningless if there weren’t attorney out there willing to defend even people accused of the most despicable of crimes. It’s most likely true that most of the people that Sheheen represented in Court over the course of his career were indeed guilty of the crimes they were accused of, and probably of others as well. However, that’s an irrelevant point. Our criminal justice system presumes that everyone accused of a crime is innocent until they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That means that every person accused of a crime deserves representation by competent counsel whose job it is to protect their rights and force the state to meet its burdens of proof. Implying that there is something wrong with this to the point that a person who works as a criminal defense attorney is unqualified to hold public office, as this RGA ad does is nothing short of reprehensible.

Kilgore is correct to note the hypocrisy of a political party that likes to trumpet its devotion to the Constitution turning around and attacking an opponent for performing a task that is protected, indeed necessitated, by that same Constitution. However, it’s not like this ought to be very surprising. We’ve seen plenty of examples of Republicans attacking people for exercising their rights under the Fifth Amendment and supported a President who used the “War On Terror” to eviscerate the Fourth Amendment. Indeed, one seriously doubts that most “constitutional conservatives” would be quite so upset about the NSA’s data mining program if the President were a Republican. Conservatives haven’t shown much respect for the First Amendment over the years, either, and their antipathy to the 14th Amendment when it comes to issues like the rights of immigrants, legal or illegal, and marriage equality, has been on display for many years. Of course, if they end up before a judge someday, they’re going to want an attorney like Sheheen defending them. They just apparently don’t think anyone else should have that right.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    You are the guy who could never vote for a Democrat. This is the world you helped create, stop bitching about it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 48 Thumb down 13

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    The real problem is probably Sheheen has represented black people and many in SC know the 6th amendment doesn’t apply to them.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 4

  3. gVOR08 says:

    You’d think the “constitutional conservatives” of the Republican Party might be aware there’s an item in the Bill of Rights—the Sixth Amendment to be precise—that guarantees those accused of criminal acts the right to “the assistance of counsel.”

    I can’t imagine why you’d think that after the last several years. Their loyalty is to the Constitution in their heads, not the one at the National Archives. Theirs doesn’t appear to have a Sixth amendment, or, per your other post, a Fourth.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 34 Thumb down 0

  4. Mark Ivey says:

    “Of course, if they end up before a judge someday, they’re going to want an attorney like Sheheen defending them.”

    You betcha……..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  5. Gavrilo says:

    Yes, and right now the Senate Majority PAC is running ads in Arkansas attacking Republican Tom Cotton for once working for insurance companies.

    Oh, you didn’t about read that on ThinkProgress?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 14

  6. John D'Geek says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Conservatives haven’t shown much respect for the First Amendment over the years, either, and their antipathy to the 14th Amendment when it comes to issues like the rights of immigrants, legal or illegal, and marriage equality, has been on display for many years.

    Hey! Don’t lump all Conservatives into the same jail cell! And don’t lump “Marriage Equality” in the same sentence as the others! In spite of activist opinion, that’s not as obvious as the others.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 10

  7. stonetools says:

    @anjin-san:

    Doug is a wannabee Republican, who hopes that the Republicans will come around on marriage equality, social issues, and constiutional rights so that he can join the party, because it has the right idea on Property Rights (PBUT). That’s why he scolds the Republicans for departing from the true path on say, constutional rights. He keeps hoping they’ll see the light.
    Now the Democratic Party has the right view on constitional rights, social issues, etc. But on Property Rights the Democrats commit the heresy of caring for the poor and the weak over Property Rights, and that is the unforgiveable sin for a libertarian type, so there’s no way he can vote for them…

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 7

  8. James Pearce says:

    @anjin-san: To be fair, Doug is more of the “both sides do it” school.

    That is…..not so sure he’s so in the bag for the GOP. Also, it’s likely that Doug has never tipped a race nor does he have the kind of influence among GOPers, so why blame him?

    Yes, many Republicans are “constitutional conservatives” when it’s convenient. This is news to nobody, but it’s important to call them out on it. So good job, Doug.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  9. stonetools says:

    Doug, BTW is 100 per cent on this and his post on the Fourth Amendment. Unfortunately, he can’t stand the cure, which is to to vote for a Democratic President who will actually appoint judges who will uphold the Fourth and Sixth amendments.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 6

  10. anjin-san says:

    @ James Pearce

    Doug is on record saying he “could never vote for a Democrat” – if you feel that way, you are essentially ceding power to Republicans. I think this is beyond “both sides do it”

    My personal feeling is that at some point one needs to get off the fence. I reached that point after the start of the Iraq war, and I switched from independent, which I had been for many years, to Democrat.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 3

  11. Tillman says:

    @anjin-san:

    This is the world you helped create, stop bitching about it.

    This point makes no sense. If I helped make something but the work of others turned it far askew from my original vision, I have all the right in the world to bitch about it.

    @anjin-san:

    Doug is on record saying he “could never vote for a Democrat” – if you feel that way, you are essentially ceding power to Republicans.

    Oh, so we are liable for the actions of others who share our label, no matter how crazed or misrepresenting of our views they are? So you, as a Buddhist, can be held to blame for that massacre of Muslims in Burma ernie linked to some threads back because you haven’t converted to a different religion?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 9

  12. James Pearce says:

    @Gavrilo:

    Yes, and right now the Senate Majority PAC is running ads in Arkansas attacking Republican Tom Cotton for once working for insurance companies.

    So what? Which constitutional amendment refers to insurance companies?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 2

  13. Moosebreath says:

    @Tillman:

    “If I helped make something but the work of others turned it far askew from my original vision, I have all the right in the world to bitch about it.”

    If all you do is bitch about it, and never take any steps to keep it from recurring, the rest of us have all the right in the world to point out how ineffective your bitching is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  14. Hal_10000 says:

    Unfortunately, he can’t stand the cure, which is to to vote for a Democratic President who will actually appoint judges who will uphold the Fourth and Sixth amendments.

    The Democrats respect these amendments? Since when? Have you been paying attention to the NSA debate? Do you remember Clinton’s 90’s era crime bill (the ACLU frequently gave him an F on civil liberties)? Have you seen the liberal section of the court frequently vote against constitutional liberties (such as Breyer on the aforementioned fourth amendment case)? Have you seen Clinton’s SG arguing these cases before the court? Have you been paying attention to the bipartisan War on Drugs?

    When it comes to the sixth amendment specifically, did you see the Kaley decision a few weeks ago where the court — as urged by the Obama Administration, with Kagan writing for the majority and Breyer in support — said that the federal government could take away your assets so that you couldn’t afford your own lawyer without any judicial review? Where Kagan wrote about how wonderful our rubber stamp grand jury system is?

    The idea that either party respects our constitutional rights — apart from the Republicans on the second amendment and occasionally Democrats on privacy issues — is absurd.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  15. Tillman says:

    @Moosebreath: anjin wasn’t claiming his bitching was ineffective, he was claiming his vote made his bitching illegitimate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  16. Hal_10000 says:

    Also, didn’t one of the Cheneys run an add attacking someone for representing terrorists before the courts? If John Adams were around today, they’d burn him at the stake.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  17. DrDaveT says:

    You forget, Doug — Republicans assume they know who is guilty before the trial. And even after, when they disagree with the verdict.

    Our criminal justice system presumes that everyone accused of a crime is innocent until they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

    The Republican term for that is “soft on crime”.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

  18. mantis says:

    @John D’Geek:

    And don’t lump “Marriage Equality” in the same sentence as the others! In spite of activist opinion, that’s not as obvious as the others.

    Yeah, don’t you know equal protection doesn’t apply to homosexuals!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  19. James Pearce says:

    @stonetools: “vote for a Democratic President who will actually appoint judges who will uphold the Fourth and Sixth amendments.”

    @anjin-san: “I reached that point after the start of the Iraq war, and I switched from independent, which I had been for many years, to Democrat.”

    I hear you, guys, but “vote Democrat” is hardly the panacea you make it out to be. So I vote Dem, my guy wins, he appoints cool judges……..and jerk Republicans block him.

    No, vote Dem….but also call for less stupid Republicans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  20. Tillman says:

    @James Pearce:

    I hear you, guys, but “vote Democrat” is hardly the panacea you make it out to be.

    This is something my Communist cousin (and yes, I have to capitalize it because I think he’s a card-carrying member) loves to emphasize. “If voting is the extent of your political action within the system, then you’re doing next to nothing.” I figure writing on a blog with a decent following counts as next to next to nothing. At least you can find Mataconis’s stuff on memeorandum.

    I mean, let’s face it, unless you’re donating millions to a political party or are an incredibly persuasive orator, you’re not influencing much at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  21. anjin-san says:

    @ James Pearce

    I don’t see voting Democratic as a panacea, I am a reluctant Democrat in the first place. Sadly, GOP politics have become such a train wreck that I don’t see another option. I would love to see a revitalized Republican party that embraced conservative, not radical views, but I am not holding my breath. Right now it seems to be little more than a contest to see who can be the craziest guy in the room.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  22. al-Ameda says:

    @Gavrilo:

    Yes, and right now the Senate Majority PAC is running ads in Arkansas attacking Republican Tom Cotton for once working for insurance companies.

    And exactly how is that equivalent to attacking someone whose job it is, is to defend those who happen to be accused of committing a crime?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  23. Neil Hudelson says:

    @stonetools:

    It would be nice to have a Democratic President who would, himself, abide by the fourth and sixth amendment, not just maybe nominate judges who do. When it comes to the fourth and sixth amendment, I’m not seeing Obama being a pretty big champion of it, nor many Democratic leaders (you know, like Dianne Feinstein’s ardent support of the citizen over the NSA, right?)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  24. grumpy realist says:

    Actually, it would seem to me that the Democratic candidate has now an excellent opportunity to create an ad accusing the other side of wanting to evicerate the Sixth Amendment and tub-thump to the max about the Constitution: “My opponent obviously thinks that our judicial system should turn into a kangaroo court where the accused does not deserve legal representation and is always guilty!”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  25. James Pearce says:

    @anjin-san:

    “I would love to see a revitalized Republican party that embraced conservative, not radical views, but I am not holding my breath. Right now it seems to be little more than a contest to see who can be the craziest guy in the room.”

    I agree 100%.

    This is how the GOP got there: They spent a generation convincing people that voting Republican is a panacea. “Vote Republican and all your problems will go away.” And look what we got: Bush, a GOP congress, and the darkest days in this country since my grandparents were children.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  26. m. lewis says:

    You seriously believe the 1950’s or 60’s were better than now? I don’t like how many things are going right now but this way over the top.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. bill says:

    @grumpy realist: and unfortunately 95% of the voters will not know what the 6th is, and when you tell them 75% won’t care.
    but back to the blog- nobody is attacking the 6th, just the guy who defends the scum as the 6th grants. it’s not like he’s some john edwards type sleazoid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce: What you said.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @anjin-san:

    Doug is on record saying he “could never vote for a Democrat” – if you feel that way, you are essentially ceding power to Republicans. I think this is beyond “both sides do it”

    Bullhockey. That form of logic doesn’t even pass the smell test.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  30. mantis says:

    @bill:

    nobody is attacking the 6th, just the guy who defends the scum as the 6th grants.

    Dumber than a bag of hammers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  31. stonetools says:

    @James Pearce:

    I hear you, guys, but “vote Democrat” is hardly the panacea you make it out to be.

    I don’t think of the Democrats as a panacea-only better than the alternative.
    I certainly don’t think the Democrats are a perfect party, but it’s hard to criticise them when you know the replacement is so bats!t insane. Look at 2000. There are a lot of liberals who decided to protest what they saw is the corporatist direction of the Democratic Party by voting for Nader. Think of what a flustercuck that turned into, for the Democrats and the country.
    Think of what woiulfd happen if we decided to sit out the 2016 election , and President Cruz sends Justices Priscilla Owens and Janice Rogers Brown to the Supreme Court. Does anyone think that would be actually good for the Fourth and Sixth Amendments?

    @Neil Hudelson:

    It would be nice to have a Democratic President who would, himself, abide by the fourth and sixth amendment, not just maybe nominate judges who do.

    Yeah? Think how President Cruz, Perry or Santorum would do. Don’t compare Obama to Jesus or (insert ideal here), compare him to his likely alternative.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  32. Tillman says:

    @stonetools:

    Yeah? Think how President Cruz, Perry or Santorum would do. Don’t compare Obama to Jesus or (insert ideal here), compare him to his likely alternative.

    That’s what I do when I vote. It is proper to do so when given an explicit choice to act on. The rest of the time? I will complain about the people I elected (and the people those people elected) because the world sucks.

    To flip it around, why am I allowed to compare him to hypothetical Republican presidents but not hypothetical “better Democratic” presidents?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  33. Barry says:

    @Ron Beasley: “The real problem is probably Sheheen has represented black people and many in SC know the 6th amendment doesn’t apply to them. ”

    And non-rich people in general. Corporations and the rich are entitled to all of the ‘representation’ that lawyers and bribed judges and politicians can provide.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  34. al-Ameda says:

    @bill:

    it’s not like he’s some john edwards type sleazoid.

    or Cliven Bundy for that matter

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  35. Eric Florack says:

    Does anyone suppose that if the lawyer in question was running under the GOP banner, that the Democrats wouldn’t be at least making mention of this history?
    Com’on, huh?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  36. Moosebreath says:

    @Eric Florack:

    “Does anyone suppose that if the lawyer in question was running under the GOP banner, that the Democrats wouldn’t be at least making mention of this history?”

    Can you supply examples of Democrats doing this? The post has 2 examples of Republicans doing it in the last 2 months.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  37. stonetools says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Does anyone suppose that if the lawyer in question was running under the GOP banner, that the Democrats wouldn’t be at least making mention of this history?

    Actually, no. Next!

    Longer… I have never heard of Democrats running ads saying , “Such and such a candidate represented XYZ in court, therefore vote against him because of the character of his client.”
    I have heard, though, of Republicans filibustering an Obama agency nominee because he once defended a murderer.
    And do you remember when Democrats filibustered John Robert’s Supreme Court nomination because he represented a mass murderer in Florida on a pro bono basis? Me neither…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  38. beth says:

    @stonetools: Let’s not forget Liz Cheney’s group and their ad about the “Al-Queda 7″ who were DOJ employees who defended Guantanamo detainees before they joined the administration. Lord knows those people don’t deserve lawyers, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  39. rudderpedals says:

    @Eric Florack: Of course. Examples?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. grumpy realist says:

    @bill: I take it you are posting with a very dry tongue in cheek? (to totally mix metaphors.)

    And sadly enough, the bulk of the american populace probably does sincerely believe that it’s not attacking the Sixth Amendment, just “those people” who get defended in court free by the taxpayers.

    The same populace will, of course, totally turn around and fuss loudly if when THEY are accused and don’t have money for a lawyer, if a top-notch public defender isn’t found for them…..

    The benefits of the Sixth Amendment for Me, but not for Thee. And so it always goes….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  41. rudderpedals says:

    None of these people saw Gideon’s Trumpet. But if they did, they missed the important bits.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  42. grumpy realist says:

    Now it looks like they pissed off the South Carolina Bar Association

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  43. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Haley’s people must be running scared. They’re also trumpeting highly dubious polls that show her with a solid lead.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  44. @stonetools: Democratic as well as Republican Presidents have trashed the 4th and 6th amendments with the NDAA and the Patriot Act. And let’s not forget the 5th too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1