Sunday, April 17, 2005

Old lawyers never die 

MSNBC's Dan Abrams is a bit surprised:
"It's been over one year since U.S. forces captured Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. When he does face justice, he'll have an unlikely ally: Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General under President Lyndon Johnson, the son of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice and civil rights activist."
Considering Clark's activities for the past few decades, it's hardly unlikely (on the general topic see my profile of Saddam's all-star defense team).

Everyone, of course, deserves the benefit of proper legal defense, and that includes scum of the earth like Saddam. If you practice in criminal law, the chances are that you'll get to represent some characters that you normally would not associate with in your non-professional life. In the end though, there is no obligation upon you to take the case, and if you are actually volunteering - serially - to defend shady characters, well, that's entirely different ballgame to your stock standard crim law practice. And so, some lawyers' choice of clients and cases seems to be motivated by more than just an impartial desire to ensure due and just process - and becomes a part of a perverse pattern of representing the enemies of your own society. Ramsey Clark is one such lawyer.

After being given a spiel about fairness and commitment to human rights as his motivating factors in taking on Saddam's defense, Abrams presses on:
"ABRAMS: But isn't there a moral choice also? I mean you've given me strictly sort of a legal answer, which is that he deserves as does everyone a fair trial and that you want to make sure that happens. But isn't there also a moral choice to say 'He needs somebody but I don't want to be that person based on what I know he's done in his past'?

"CLARK: That thought doesn't occur to me because that's me being a judge. A lawyer is not the judge."
What a monumental cop-out that is - for all his talk about being non-judgmental, you can never imagine Clark defending somebody from the "other side", like a soldier accused of abusing a prisoner at Abu Ghraib. One thought that certainly didn't occur to Clark since about 1967 is that his country might actually be right.


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