Saturday, January 22, 2005

Pot & Law

Yesterday was the half-JD party, which I didn't attend. It's far too cold for me to venture out. And now we're being snowed in. We have a snowstorm till Monday We're supposed to get over a foot of snow within the next 40 hours or so. Nice.

So anyway, the half-JD thing. I didn't go because I didn't want to brave the weather, only to be greeted by bacchanalian revelry. Maybe over the summer, but certainly not in the dead of winter. Brrr...

The Deviant Lawyer has a post about why he changed his mind from doing criminal defence to something not so criminal. I used to think similarly, but I've started to change my mind. See, I think criminal defence is not so much about your client as much as it is to preserve the justice system. The fourth and fifth amendments were established to protect innocent people from police brutality and government over-reach. Time and time again, such infractions have occurred, thus justifying these amendments (and many more). Sure, you will have clients who may well be guilty of the crime they are charged with, but I view their representation as being more of representing the justice system in its entirety rather than that defendant.

I take a very utilitarian stance on this subject. I remember a "The Practice" episode (while I understand that I should know better than to take TV drama seriously, this illustrates my point beautifully) where a man was charged with murdering a nun, chopping her body to pieces and stashing them in his closet. The police found those pieces in his house while conducting an (later determined to be) illegal search. The issue was this: Do the pieces come in as evidence in a murder charge against him? The judge ruled not. The Prosecution and the church were devastated, as was the defence attorney, who had effectively represented her client.

I was horrified too, but think about this - if the evidence had come in, the police would have been granted latitude to go into anyone's house and conduct a search at any time at any place. And it's not like all policemen and policewomen (sorry, *had* to do that) are highly responsible and moral people. And so, we think whether it's justified to sacrifice small numbers to ensure that larger numbers' rights aren't infringed on. I realise that I am presuming certain citizens' rights are the same as certain others'. It might be a folly but how do we know who to discriminate against and who to protect and embrace?

Ultimately, a defence attorney's life is infinitely tough because of the moral implications it involves, but I think it is a noble job precisely because of it. There are slimeballs who make a mockery out of that nobility, thereby casting aspersions on the entire profession, but that exists in any vocation. Humans (and this may come as a surprise) *are* fallible, but it takes real courage to stand up for what you believe in and try to strive for the best that you can.

On a totally unrelated note, I will never be a defence attorney.



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