Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pro bono publico

Although Katie got home from vacation last week and penned two columns, there wasn't a Katie column on Monday. Now we know why. Katie was building up steam in the boiler for today's ululation: The pinstripe brigade lines to defend convention scoff-laws. Katie is shocked an no doubt saddened to hear that the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union is recruiting lawyers, including ones for major firms, to represent protesters and others arrested for protesting during the Republican National Convention next summer. It's obvious from the tenor of the column that she is particularly incensed that some large firm civil and corporate types are signing up to help. Katie finds it hard to believe these champions of keeping the world safe for banks, insurance companies, investment capitalists, and other industrial and business concerns would betray their kind and represent the riff-raff—for nothing! Here are the opening grafs of the column:

A phalanx of Twin Cities lawyers is laying the groundwork for what may become the legal equivalent of the Super Bowl.

A campaign is underway to ensure that protesters at the 2008 Republican National Convention -- to be held here Sept. 1-4 -- will get a warm Minnesota welcome.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is leading the charge. It's lobbying St. Paul and Minneapolis officials to smooth the way for parade permits and considering lawsuits if necessary, while trying to arrange for demonstrators to protest as close to convention venues as possible.

Well, Spotty, Katie is a lawyer. She has the right to be incensed on behalf of the profession, doesn't she?

Spot says that by writing a column criticizing a large group of lawyers for preparing to represent what may prove to be a lot of people caught up in protests during the 2008 Republican convention in the Twin Cities, Katie fails her own duty as an officer of the court to help the public understand the profession's obligation to represent everyone, especially in criminal matters. Here is a part of the comment to Rule 1.2 of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct:

Legal representation should not be denied to people who are unable to afford legal services, or whose cause is controversial or the subject of popular disapproval. A lawyer's representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client's political, economic, social or moral views or activities.

Rule 6.1 of these rules provides:

A lawyer should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year. In fulfilling this responsibility, the lawyer should:

(a) provide a substantial majority of the 50 hours of legal services without fee or expectation of fee to:

     (1) persons of limited means or

     (2) charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters which are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means; and

(b) provide any additional services through:

     (1) delivery of legal services at no fee or substantially reduced fee to individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect the civil rights, civil liberties or public rights, or charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization's economic resources or would be otherwise inappropriate;

     (2) delivery of legal services at a substantially reduced fee to persons of limited means; or

     (3) participation in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession.

In addition, a lawyer should voluntarily contribute financial support to organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means.

[italics are Spot's]

Here's the First Amendment to the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Protesting is both speech and assembly. It is constitutionally protected activity.

But Spotty, it says "peaceably to assemble."

That's right grasshopper, it does. But when federal, state, and local authorities get together—dare Spot say conspire?—to erect security cordon after security cordon around the convention venue as they did in New York, and confine protesters to pitiful "speech cages" far away from the conventioneers and politicians attending the convention, the question arises as to whether an unlawful denial of the rights of speech and assembly excuses some unruly-ness. It is not the Secret Service, after all, that is the interpreter of the First Amendment. And it most assuredly is not the Republican Party, either. As Katie observes, some of the activity of the pinstripe brigade will be to obtain parade permits and secure access by protesters in advance of the convention.

Spotty, didn't Katie cite with approval the offer of Hulk Hogan to represent the "John Does" in the "flying imams" litigation? And the lawyers' representation of white students trying to overturn a minority admission program at the University of Michigan Law School?

Yes, that's true.

And weren't you critical of those lawyers?

Now that you mention it, grasshopper, Spot was.

Isn't that a little hypocritical, Spotty?

Hypocritical? Moi? Spot doesn't think so grasshopper. In Katie's cases, a victory by the "pro bono" lawyers results in the diminution of the rights of minority groups. In the case of Katie's "pinstripe brigade," the only practical effect may be to diminish the good time had by the conventioneers. And don't forget, protesters still will be, and should be, prosecuted for damage to property or person.

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