Recently in the news there was quite the hub-bub about the nonselection of Abdegbile. You hear all this stuff from lawyers about how everyone needs a defense and blah blah. Let's unpack that, shall we?
Dershowitz said, "The zealous defense attorney is the last bastion of liberty - the final barrier between an overreaching government and its citizens."
That's sort of true. But it has to be unpacked as well. There is the attorney as advocate for his client. That's what attorneys will explain is all that they are. The rest is just the trappings of that job. And so, from this view, the attorney is the guardian of his client's liberty.
That view, however, does allow for a certain amount of disgruntlement from ordinary folks. You can't simply wash your hands of who you defend in this view. This view and the "everyone needs a defense" thing are, frankly, kind of bullshit.
Because we defend evil. Dark, dark evil. We put the murderer back on the street to kill again, and we get him off on a technicality and he does it again. I'm sorry, but simply saying, "everyone deserves a defense" is pathetic. Society may quite righteously respond to that, "Fuck you."
I am a public defender. I do not decide who I defend, but I know I can't hide behind that. I took on the mantle because I believe in what I do. And I hardly love my clients. Well, to be honest I have rarely really hated any of them, I'm kind of a softie in that way. Everyone is sympathetic on some level. But I live in the world with the rest of you. And I don't tell myself it's ok that I help the child rapists rape. That would be insane.
What I realized, as I took up this job and did it for a while, is that the good guys are pushy. Cops and prosecutors are order. They are light. They defend liberty, too. I have lived in a real war zone. I know what it is like to be so terrified you can't get out of bed. Liberty from fear is extremely important. Law enforcement liberates us from some very bad shit.
But Acton said, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." This is a terrible truth. Our people have learned it time and time again. During much of the strengthening and founding of our civil rights, our leaders have looked at that absolute corruption and in response, we have the system we have. The rules of this game were designed not to protect the darkness, but to protect the light.
But the gate stands between those forces and the watchmen along it are not us. Despite what Dershowitz and people think, I do not defend the darkness. I have never argued that evil is good. That takes the power of a Pope, and I don't have that. What is it that Jack Nicholson said...
Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don't want the truth, because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like "honor", "code", "loyalty". We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said "thank you", and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to!
The guardian on the wall is the judge. The judge determines how far into the dark the light may go. The judge has the heavy duty of defending order from the corruption that comes from completely wiping out the dark. From the Gulag Archipelagos that form when the light strays too far into Hell.
What do I do? I remind the judge of his duty. I am the canary in the mine shaft. I point to the rule and beg the judge to hold fast, keep the gate shut. When I fail, I feel not only personal defeat, but a slight terror of what may yet become of this country. Our judges are the last bastion of freedom. They are the watchers on the gate, the guardians of the darkness.
Would that those who chose them would choose more wisely. Would that those who revile attorneys who have begged judges to maintain the wall could see what Aristotle, Plato, Acton, Washington, Jefferson, Hitler and Stalin had to teach us.