The Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog written by Mark Bennett posted the following excerpt from his "mailbag" which posed a question I have struggled with for some time. Below is what Mark had on his entry at the time I found it:
From the mailbag:
Please don’t take my unique questioning ideas personally, as I don’t know and I am just asking you what you think. I was wondering whether being openly political on your professional legal blog may sometimes be unwise. I have written or emailed other lawyers the same question. I also feel passionately about politics and love politics and I guess I am somewhat of a political junky. Yet, I think irregardless of which party wins or which party I support, that maybe it would be more correct to post political ideas on a different blog than my professional legal practice blog. Some people say blogs are like diaries and people put down emotional things and say things like I feel “cloudy” and stuff like that. I have been entertained and educated by blogs and if I disagree with the blog, well I don’t have to read it, although I respect other people’s ideas so I usually read it anyway. Never-the-less, would you feel uncomfortable in representing someone from the opposite political party from you. Also, can someone from the opposite political position have worthy valuable ideas and deserve some degree of respect even though you disagree with them. If your mother or father or someone you care about were members of the opposite political party would you treat them with respect? Are law blogs required to be political? Are there some things that should be above or beyond politics? How would it feel to be sentenced by a Judge who was a member of the opposite political party or prosecuted by a prosecutor from the other side or defended by a defender from the other side or arrested by a law officer from the opposite political party? I think there have been some historical incidents involving political type things and they usually go against the politicizer. Like Socrates, all I know is I don’t really know, but asking the question makes you think.
Not so much.
Criminal defense trial law is politics — not just the politics of interpersonal relationships in the civic arena, but also how human beings relate to their government. It’s foolish to suggest otherwise.
Arguably, the criminal defense lawyer who thinks that he (like the legal system?) is “above” politics is doing only half the job:
The legal system of every country has as a major purpose the support of the existing political relationships. The lower criminal courts function as an assembly line in order to keep politics out of the courtroom, thereby leaving the status-quo unchallenged . . . . Legal ideology thrives on depoliticizing issues into abstract, external rules and process. Our job is to bring the reality of political relationship into the equation.
(Paul Harris, Warrior-Lawyer.)
We don’t blog about the world that we’d like to have; we blog about the
world we have. The choices that voters make in elections at every level are going to affect how free we and our children will be. The criminal justice system is not above politics, and neither am I.
Politics doesn’t necessarily mean partisan politics. From the point of view of a practicing federal criminal defense lawyer, neither John Ashcroft nor Janet Reno was any better than the other. When our view is informed by our loyalty to a particular political party, we risk appearing naive and ignorant. Not that that should bother us.
How does it feel to be arrested or prosecuted by a member of the other
party? I imagine that, if you’re going to feel unfairly treated, it’s
better to feel unfairly treated by someone for whom you didn’t vote
than by someone for whom you did. Here in Texas, judges are elected in partisan elections. In Harris County, the Republicans have had a lock for many years, and we suffer some miserable judges as a result. Same deal in Travis County, but substitute “Democrats” for “Republicans.”
I’ve got lots of clients who are Republicans. They’re shocked to see the injustice in Harris County that results from their voting habits. I’d bet that there are Democrats accused in Travis County who feel the same way. Both counties will be better places when neither political party thinks it has those elections sewn up.
I believe that a lot of valuable insight may be obtained from this entry and this thread of commentary in general. In fact, this topic is one that I have struggled with since I began to blog in late August, 2008. My solution has been to write about matters that impact the are where I provide my criminal defense services and to help educate the voters in Travis and Williamson County about who is in office and what that means to them.
So, yes, I have become political in that regard. However, I have refrained from injecting political beliefs simply for the purpose of saying "Vote for Obama" or anything of that nature.
I have tried to say that people need to focus on "Change" and vote in such a way that they make the elected judges, district attorneys, and other officials be accountable to them for their actions and attitudes. If that has not been clear, then I will try to be more specific in the future.
However, I sometimes wonder if by being too vocal I am hurting my ability to represent clients in my area of practice by ostracizing myself from the perceived good-will of local judges and prosecutors. I want to believe that would not be the case, and I truly hope that those persons are educated and unbiased enough not to hold my opinions and use of my 1st Amendment Right to Free Speech against me or my clients… but in some instances, I am not so sure that would be the case.
In sum, I cannot answer many of the questions posed by the contributor to Mark Bennett’s mailbag, but I truly believe this is a topic that needs further exploration and discussion.