Doing Her Job
Here’s your new OTW: Hillary Clinton said some really mean things about a rape victim. When she was working as a criminal defense attorney for the accused rapist. In 1975.
We aren’t particularly proud of the tactic of victim-shaming in the legal profession, and we shouldn’t be. But at the same time, we have jobs to do. If I were assigned the job of defending an accused rapist, and I had reason to believe that a jury would question the veracity of the victim if presented with appropriate evidence, I would feel bound to use that evidence. Even if I strongly suspected my client was guilty — “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” means that my job as the defense lawyer is to raise a reasonable doubt.
And yeah, after the pressure was off, I might blow off some steam and laugh about a tense case leading to a good result with a colleague, too. It’s not a particular secret that most defendants really are guilty of something and are generally kind of scummy individuals. But that doesn’t mean that you, as a lawyer, don’t do your very best for them anyway. Impeaching a victim’s credibility? It’s what you do.
And now, forty years later, one ought not to read all that much significance into things that a young-ish lawyer said and did early in her career and while acting on behalf of an accused defendant. Lawyers are advocates. They are not their clients. There are limits on the things a lawyer can say and do in their capacity as advocates, but this is well within them. She did not suborn perjury, did not lie to the court, did not steal from her client, zealously represented her client’s interests, and eventually brokered out a favorable plea arrangement for him. She did her job as an attorney.
“But rape!” is not a valid objection back — not every rapist is guilty upon accusation, even if this guy actually was guilty. So today, she stands accused of… having been an attorney. I guess she really doesn’t have any choice but to plead guilty.
Burt Likko is the pseudonym of an attorney in Southern California. His interests include Constitutional law with a special interest in law relating to the concept of separation of church and state, cooking, good wine, and bad science fiction movies. Follow his sporadic Tweets at @burtlikko, and his Flipboard at Burt Likko.