Abbe Smith and I will be publishing "How Can You Represent Those People?" in 2013. We'll be willing to talk about (that is, promote) the book is anyone would be interested in setting up a discussion. The following is the Preface:
"How can you represent those people?” All criminal defense lawyers are asked this question—by family, friends, and folk of all sorts. The query is such a part of the criminal defense experience it is known as The Question. Posed by the genuinely perplexed as well as the hardened heckler—often at a cocktail party when the defender has a drink in hand and his or her guard down—the lawyer tries not to seem bored or peeved while offering a range of replies: personal, professional, political.
What is really being asked is: “How can you represent people you know to be guilty?” Not guilty shoplifters, marijuana possessors, drunk drivers, or political protesters—these could be us, our children, our parents. Not the wrongly accused or convicted either—even the harshest critics understand defending the innocent. The Question refers instead to the representation of guilty criminals who have committed acts of violence or depravity.
There are no right answers to The Question or related questions. Each lawyer has his or her own reasons for doing the work. This book is the first collection of answers to The Question ever assembled. The contributors are some of the most experienced and thoughtful criminal defense lawyers and teachers in the country—old and young, male and female, white and black. They explain simply and powerfully why they represent “those people.”
As we mark the fiftieth anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the United States Supreme Court case that guaranteed the right to counsel in criminal cases in this country, we should likewise mark the important work of criminal lawyers. Although we remain far from fulfilling the promise of Gideon—that people accused of crime will be well represented no matter how much money they have—the voices in this collection inspire us to do better.
Some contributors speak poignantly of their own experiences with injustice as underlying their commitment to indigent defense. Angela Davis shares a story of racism from her childhood in Georgia, Vida Johnson a story about her grandparents’ struggles with the Klan in Mississippi. Others, like Tucker Carrington and Ann Roan, acknowledge their own relative privilege and good fortune but find themselves drawn to the poor accused nonetheless. William Montross and Meghan Shapiro write about their experience representing people on death row, and the toll capital defense takes on clients, their families, their lawyers. Two contributors, David Singleton and Robin Steinberg, run organizations. Singleton shares his experience representing sex offenders while trying to keep the Ohio Justice Policy Center afloat, while career defender Steinberg talks about what led her to create the Bronx Defenders, one of the premier public defender offices in the country. Joseph Margulies and Alice Wooley provide a historical and political context for representing “those people.” Former federal prosecutor Paul Butler turns the focus on prosecutors with his version of the “how can you” question. Criminal defense icons Alan Dershowitz, Michael Tigar, and Barbara Babcock point to law, philosophy, politics, and personality to explain how they represent “those people.” The co-editors contribute essays as well, offering our own reasons—personal, political, religious—for defending people who do even very bad things.
Prominent criminal lawyer Edward Bennett Williams once noted that, like other criminal lawyers, he took on difficult cases for unpopular clients, “not because of my own wishes, but because of the unwritten law that I might not refuse.” The lawyers in this collection could not refuse either. Moreover, they could not be prouder to embrace even the very worst of “those people.”