Over in Williamson County, Tennessee — just north of my home — prosecutors actually filed a motion asking the court to order a defense attorney to stop calling them “the government” in open court. Yes, that’s right — in my home state, it’s apparently now a slur to call the government by its name. In its motion, prosecutors claimed:
“The State has noticed in the past few years that it has become commonplace during trials for attorneys for defendants, and especially Mr. Justice, to refer to State’s attorneys as ‘the Government,’ ” [prosecutors wrote.] “The State believes that such a reference is used in a derogatory way and is meant to make the State’s attorney seem oppressive and to inflame the jury.”
This is a great little story by itself, but then the defense attorney, Drew Justice, went and committed an act of pure awesomeness. He filed a motion with his own request:
He demanded his client no longer be referred to as “the Defendant,” but instead be called “Mister,” “the Citizen Accused” or “that innocent man” — since all defendants are presumed innocent until a judge or jury finds them guilty. As for himself, clearly “lawyer” or “defense attorney” wouldn’t do him, well, justice.
“Rather, counsel for the Citizen Accused should be referred to primarily as the ‘Defender of the Innocent.’ … Alternatively, counsel would also accept the designation ‘Guardian of the Realm,’ ” Justice wrote.
And since prosecutors are often referred to formally as “General” in court, Justice, in an effort to be flexible, offered up a military title of his own.
“Whenever addressed by name, the name ‘Captain Justice’ will be appropriate.”
Gathering steam, he went on to say that even “the defense” wasn’t adequate and that “the Resistance” would be far more appropriate.
He then concluded his motion, returning to the formal language of court documents — sort of.
“WHEREFORE, Captain Justice, Guardian of the Realm and Leader of the Resistance, primarily asks that the Court deny the State’s motion, as lacking legal basis.”
According to Captain Justice, the court denied both motions. So the government is still the “government,” but Captain Justice, Guardian of the Realm, lives on in print – but not in court. Well done, Captain. You’ve made the Tennessee Bar proud.