July 14, 2020
The Columbus Bar Association was recently proud to learn that one of the community’s long-time, distinguished attorneys, Fred Benton, was invited by Mayor Ginther to serve on a working group assigned to recommend operational and structural features of a new Columbus civilian police review board.
Fred is a highly regarded and knowledgeable resource. Our Mayor was wise to ask for his assistance and we appreciate Fred’s willingness to volunteer his time in support of this important public effort.
After Mayor Ginther announced his appointments to this working group, he faced public criticism for Fred’s appointment because Fred’s practice includes the representation of those accused of crimes. This sort of criticism is completely out of bounds.
It is a central – and critical – feature of our constitutional system that all those accused of crimes have the opportunity to be represented by counsel. The fact that a member of the bar has dedicated some or all of his or her practice to this work is to be commended – and it is certainly not a basis for denying any such individual the opportunity to further serve the community.
Fred’s willingness to serve as a volunteer member of this working group is another example of his commitment to the highest ideals of our profession. It is entirely consistent with his years of commitment to assuring that all those accused of crimes have the opportunity to avail themselves of the constitutionally protected right to counsel.
Those who would suggest that Fred cannot effectively fulfill this volunteer role - because of the clients he represents - do not fully appreciate the role of lawyers in our society and Fred’s history of commitment to the needs of our community. I have discussed all of this with Fred and I am pleased that his commitment to this task, like his commitment to many others, remains undisturbed by the public criticism.
Robert D. Erney
President, Columbus Bar Association