I think most Americans agree that the Fourth of July is one of the great days of the year. Especially here in New York, where it signifies that summer, however brief, is here for the taking. I also think that it truly is a day where people do a lot of reflection. A day where most people think about how fortunate they are to live in the land of the free.
For me the holiday weekend was filled with friends and family. We saw the fire works in Sodus Point, Wayne County on July 3rd. There were hundreds of boats anchored in the bay and thousands of people watching from shore. Most people I came across seemed like happy proud Americans.
Throughout the weekend i thought back to a chat I had last Wednesday. I happened to be sitting with a well known, recently retired judge and one of his friends. I was introduced as a criminal defense lawyer, which immediately brought about some typical criticisms about defending guilty people. He then followed it up with how can i help rapists and murderers yada yada yada.
Before I could even get a word in the judge fired away – at him. He said “good criminal defense lawyers are the single best protection we have against the government. If the government did it’s job we would not need criminal defense lawyers, but inevitably they go too far. When a criminal defense lawyer stands up for the rights of the accused he is actually protecting you from misconduct by the government.” The man that had commented sat back in his chair and paused “i guess i never thought of that – makes sense to me,” he said.
That was a moment I won’t soon forget. First, I was really glad the good judge came to my defense. Second, it was very interesting to watch how an educated man can change his view so quickly when he listens and thinks. Most importantly, it was a moment where a careers worth of experience concisely stated why what i do (criminal defense) is important to everyone, not just the accused.
I suspect that many of you mistrust the government. I suspect many of you mistrust lawyers. I hope you will consider the role that criminal defense lawyers play in keeping the government in check.