Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hillary Clinton Back in Spotlight Over Defense of Child Rapist

In a good number of states, after you pass the bar and become a licensed attorney you may get a phone call from a nearby court like I did telling you that you have been assigned to represent a criminal defendant who cannot afford an attorney.  And once you get that call, the rules of professional conduct for attorneys are clear: you have to take the case.  Period.  Just like jury duty; unless you're on your death bed, you don't have a choice. The state bar takes this obligation seriously.

I don't really have a dog in the fight surrounding Hillary Clinton's run for the presidency, but I can say that this latest controversy cooked up about her court appointed representation of a child rapist lacks merit.

Per ABC news:

Last month, the conservative news site the Washington Free Beacon released audiouncovered from the Clinton archives at the University of Arkansas in which Hillary Clinton discusses how as a young lawyer she represented a 41-year-old accused rapist. In the recordings, from more than 30 years ago, Clinton is heard laughing as she describes how she was able to find a loophole in the system to discredit the evidence against her client, despite suggesting she knew he was guilty.
During a video interview over the weekend with Mumsnet, an online network for mothers in the UK, the former secretary of state spoke about the case for the first time since the story resurfaced.
"When I was a 27-year-old attorney doing legal-aid work at the law school where I taught in Fayetteville, Arkansas, I was appointed by the local judge to represent a criminal defendant accused of rape. I asked to be relieved of that responsibility, but I was not, and I had a professional duty to represent my client to the best of my ability, which I did," Clinton said.
Clinton continued to explain that as an attorney she had an "obligation" to provide him with a fair legal defense.
"When you're a lawyer you often don't have the choice to choose who you will represent, and by the very nature of criminal law there will be those who you represent that you won't approve of," she said. "But at least in our system you have an obligation, and once I was appointed, I fulfilled that obligation."
In the end, Clinton said, her client pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

So as far any gripe that people may have about the fact that Hillary Clinton represented a guy accused of raping a 12 year old girl, such complaints are unfounded and ignore this thing called the 6th Amendment of the United States Constitution.  The 6th Amendment says that in America, if you're accused of a crime then you have a right to an attorney.  For those who take issue with this fundamental aspect of our country's legal system, there are a few third world nations that would love to have you pay them a visit. 

Putting that issue aside, I think what many folks may find troubling here is the extent to which Hillary seemed to brag or make light of the fact that she got her client off of the terrible crime that he was accused of comitting. I think most people can appreciate the cognitive dissonance required to carry out an obligation or duty to act on behalf of someone who you vehemently disagree with, but where you start to lose some folks is when you turn around and brag about it.  If it's your sworn obligation as an attorney appointed to a case then so be it. But if you're taking pride in it then that's a different story.  To be clear, I'm not saying that Clinton was necessarily bragging in the audio where she discussed the case, but I can understand how some people might take it that way.  

Your Thoughts? 
Was Hillary bragging here? 
What would you have done in her place?

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