Many people don’t care about providing attorneys to indigent defendants until they need one themselves.  Then their tune changes quite dramatically.

Recently an attorney on a listserv pointed out a story on the Channel 22 / WWLP website regarding bar advocate attorneys who provide criminal defense for indigent defendants.   The story is at  My response to the story focuses on the principle of providing criminal defense rather than the numerous errors and misstatements in the story (except to point out that the budget numbers referred to fund far more than “just” criminal defense.)  The opening is:

“It’s a constitutional right but it is costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars a year.”

This constitutional right costs money?  Oh, forget it then, just lock up the defendants.  In fact, if you really want to save money, don’t bother with the trial either.

Every so often I’m asked how / why attorneys provide criminal defense services.  Despite being asked several times, this question takes me by surprise, because the rights they decry are their rights too.  A scene in the play “A Man for All Seasons”  illustrates this point very well.  When Sir Thomas More’s future son in law asks him to arrest an “evil” person, his response is:

More:  And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!

Roper:  So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!

More:  Yes.  What would you do?  Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper:  I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

More:  Oh?  And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide Roper, the laws all being flat?  This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?

Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

Robert Bolt, “A Man for All Seasons”, Act One, pp. 65-66.

Keep the last five words in mind.

This entry was posted on Saturday, May 29th, 2010 at 10:01 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “And when the last law was down. . . .”

  1. carrie on May 29th, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    very interesting read love your blog

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