October 27, 2006
Columbus Bar speaks out on political advertising
The Columbus Bar Association is deeply concerned that some candidates for political office during this election cycle have chosen to vilify their attorney-opponents by making reference to cases in which that attorney has defended an unpopular client. Our concerns are two-fold.
First, such attacks constitute an unprincipled and fundamentally unfair implication that the alleged misdeeds and values of a client are somehow equivalent to those of the attorney representing that client. Second, the willingness of the attacking candidate to draw such connections -- and the tendency of some voters to accept them -- demonstrates a worrisome lack of understanding of the American system of justice.
From the time of its founding, the United States has chosen the adversarial model of justice. Simply put, this system is premised on the belief that if all parties to a controversy are able to have their positions presented vigorously to an impartial judge, that decision maker will then, and only then, be in the best position to determine the truth of the matter and the appropriate remedy. This system has served us well.
Adversarial justice, however, can only exist if the parties have access to trained and principled counsel to help them present their case. In a criminal matter, the state needs to have an able prosecutor; the defendant should have an equally competent and dedicated attorney. Both need to do their respective jobs to make the process work. There is nothing shameful or suspect about faithfully performing either task. Quite the opposite; the work of both prosecutor and defense counsel is noble and absolutely necessary.
Casting the shadows of doubt on a attorney/candidate simply because he or she has represented an unpopular client or point of view in a court of law is harmful to the court, to the election process and ultimately to the public interest. This type of political opportunism at the expense of justice should stop, and the public should question the motives of those who resort to it.