How to practice criminal defense in an unjust system?

Jan 09, 2007 How to practice criminal defense in an unjust system?

Justice Thurgood Marshall (from public domain)

As I posted a few days ago to a criminal defense lawyers’ e-mail listserv: 

"I have long felt a tension about earning a living defending in a criminal justice system that is as unjust as ours, both because I’m participating in the system from the inside rather than just pushing against it from the outside, and because I am profiting from the injustice of the system (starting from unjust laws (e.g. against marijuana) and proceeding from there). Although I do not plan to stop practicing criminal defense as a result of this tension, since I feel the tension, I acknowledge it to myself."

What do I do to alleviate this tension? A non-exhaustive list includes doing pro bono, low bono and court-appointed indigent client defense; going beyond the courtroom to support adding more justice to the criminal justice system (including through this Underdog Blog) and seeking legislative changes (where I should put in more time than before); remembering that no battlefield is ever fully fair (Justice Thurgood Marshall learned this early on); and to continue approaching my criminal defense work and life as a t’ai chi practitioner would. The foregoing approach often is easier said than done.

Jon Katz

Judges speaking out against mandatory minimum sentencing
Oppose McCain's bill to censor the Internet
No Comments

Post A Comment