During the presidential race, Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, was questioned about defending a man charged of rape. Clinton responded, “When you’re a lawyer you often don’t have the choice as to who you will represent. And by the very nature of criminal law there will be those you represent you don’t approve of. But, at least in our system, you have an obligation.”
Now I may not agree with everything Clinton says, but I certainly agree with her remarks on this issue. Lawyers do have an obligation to diligently represent their clients. Our American justice system requires each individual’s liberties and rights to be protected to the fullest extent. The United States Constitution was drafted by the Framers to safeguard each individual’s liberties and rights—especially the rights of the accused.
Our Founding Fathers lived a time when they did not always have rights. Their liberties were not always protected. They had faced the corrupt powers of government. Our US Constitution was formed to prohibit the government from tyranny, oppression, and corruption.
Our obligation is to defend the Constitution. Not just part of it, or some of it, but ALL of it.
First, Article III, Section 2 gives each person accused of a crime a right to a trial. Second, the 4th Amendment protects each citizen from illegal searches and seizures. Third, the 6th Amendment provides each criminal defendant the right to an attorney. This right extends to every single person regardless of race, gender, religion, or socioeconomic status.
As an attorney, I took an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States and of the State of Texas. My oath requires that I diligently defend my clients to the best of my abilities. For many people it might be hard to imagine representing an individual who is being accused of any crime at all much less a crime involving abusing or harming children, women, or even murder. It might be hard to imagine a scenario where those accused of such heinous crimes have the right to a fair trial or the right to have an attorney represent them.
As I come up on my one-year anniversary of practicing law I reflect on what it means to be a criminal defense lawyer. Defending alleged criminals can certainly be a challenging job. It can be extremely hostile, stressful, complex, but more importantly, it can be rewarding. My job is more than explaining to clients legal theories and defenses; it is about believing in, upholding, and defending the Constitution. It is a display of what I stand for.
A defense lawyer ensures that the government does not abuse its power and infringe on a citizen’s rights. Many may believe “if you’re innocent, you don’t need a lawyer,” but attorneys represent any individual simply accused of a crime. The Constitution isn’t just there to protect “criminals”; it protects all of us.
I think most defense lawyers can relate to situations where they were faced with tough cases. But during those times, may we be reminded of what our obligation is: we have an obligation to be an advocate for our clients, an obligation to protect their rights, and an obligation to defend the constitution.