RGA Attacks Lawyer for Being Defense Attorney

by Jonathan H. Adler

When folks on the left attacked some of President Bush’s judicial nominees for having represented politically unpopular clients or having advanced controversial positions in court, many conservatives cried foul — and rightly so.  As David Rivkin and Lee Casey explained in Policy Review, the adversary legal system relies upon the willingness of lawyers to represent even the most unpopular or unpalatable clients, and the canons of legal ethics provide that it is improper to impute to an attorney the position of his or her client.  Unfortunately it seems that the attack ad specialists at the Republican Governors  Association never learned these lessons, as they have produced two ads assailing South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen for having represented criminals when he worked as a criminal defense attorney.  I have not doubt these ads are effective, but they are also wrong.  Attorneys should not be vilified because they were willing to represent those who needed a defense, and we should fear a system in which such representation can come at the cost of one’s political career.  I have even stronger words for these advertisements at the Volokh Conspiracy here and here.

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