ATTORNEY ETHICS?

Eric Muller, writing at The Volokh Conspiracy, makes an interesting argument:

Attorney ethics meet public relations I understand that a criminal defense lawyer is obligated to defend his client zealously. This story raises an interesting question, though: to what extent does that obligation extend to settings outside the litigation? The story makes it sound as though Eric Rudolph’s Jewish lawyer is on national television attempting to defeat the perception that his client is an anti-semite. (This effort is necessitated by, among other things, his client’s practice of calling television “the electronic Jew” and denying that the Holocaust happened.) Indeed, the way the story is being spun, it looks as though the lawyer is specifically calling attention to the fact that he is Jewish and that Rudolph has no problem with that. The lawyer is obviously looking toward jury selection, and trying to begin crafting an image of his client that is more palatable than the prevalent one.

I think this lawyer is playing a dangerous and disrespectful game. The story makes clear that the lawyer is a practicing Jew; it even features a supportive interview with the rabbi of the lawyer’s congregation. And as a Jew, I resent the lawyer’s playing the card of his faith in this way in the service of his client’s interests. The lawyer might respond with some ringing language about the obligations of zealous advocacy. But that’s a valid response, it seems to me, only if those obligations extend to a public relations campaign on the Today show.

If Eric Rudolph’s courtroom defense requires this Jewish lawyer to refute relevant and admissible evidence that his client is an anti-semite, I say “go to it; that’s your duty.” But on the Today show, I’d argue, the lawyer has moved outside the realm of duty and into the realm of choice. I think he’s making a bad one. (Links in original)

I, too, find attorney Jaffe’s conduct problematic, simply because it amounts to a lie. But I’m having difficulty seeing why it’s different than similar things that attorneys do routinely. For example, it’s almost routine* for accused rapists, wife beaters, and child molesters to hire attractive female attorneys. Why? Because having an attractive woman advocate sends a not-so-subtle signal that you’re not threatening to women. Similarly, I’ve seen several instances where whites accused of anti-black hate crimes hire black attorneys, for similar reasons. So, why is a Jew representing an anti-Semite in order to give him a mask of respectability different?

*Actually, this is just my perception; I haven’t seen any aggregate data on this to know what the percentages are. But I’ve noticed it happening a lot and have extrapolated.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. joy says:

    The attorney is court appointed. Rudolph didn’t hire him, per se. And from what I understand it would be the attorney’s perogative to not represent his client if he felt he could not do so fairly. (i.e. the attorney may be filing this under I may not like your speech, but I defend your right to say it?)