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Horan’s county bar tribute was not in my name, and never will be

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Bill of Rights (From public domain.)

When a criminal defense lawyer whom I highly respect and admire became the president of a Northern Virginia county bar association, I asked myself "why?". Why get involved in overseeing tributes to retiring judges merely because they are judges, tributes to lawyers merely because they are lawyers, and bench-bar dances to congratulate lawyers and judges all the more merely because they are lawyers and judges? Or, did this lawyer find a Doug Henning secret to overhaul the bar association to the image of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers or the American Civil Liberties Union?

I imagine the above-mentioned county bar association does more than arranging events and programs to congratulate lawyers and judges merely for being lawyers and judges. However, I was none too pleased when I learned earlier this year that another Northern Virginia bar association, to which I belong — the Fairfax County Bar Association — took it upon itself to have a big dinner earlier this year honoring the outgoing elected prosecutor Robert Horan, Jr. This was not in my name, and I plan to inquire how Mr. Horan was designated for the honor in the first place, and whether any dissent was registered before the event went forward.

I have nothing against Robert Horan as a person versus as a recent former elected prosecutor. However, I do not think that it was justified for the Fairfax County Bar Association to have honored him. For instance, under Mr. Horan’s watch — at least during the ten years that I have been dealing with prosecutors from his office — his prosecutors generally stuck close to Virginia’s  unfairly restrictive discovery rules, and this seems to continue under the current chief Fairfax County prosecutor. Some Virginia county prosecutors’ offices provide discovery beyond such restrictions; that not only helps reduce the unfairness of Virginia’s criminal discovery rules, but also assists defendants in making an informed decision whether to settle a criminal case through a guilty plea.

In any event, the Fairfax Bar Association’s honor of Robert Horan, Jr., was not in my name; nor, of course, was it in my clients’ names. Jon Katz.