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February 25, 2008

Hillary Clinton as a criminal defense lawyer

This big Newday article provides me with proof that I can still learn something new about someone whom I thought I knew everything about.  Here are small snippets of a long piece that may be an especially interesting read for law student and law professors:

In 1975, a 27-year-old Hillary Rodham, acting as a court-appointed attorney, attacked the credibility of a 12-year-old girl in mounting an aggressive defense for an indigent client accused of rape in Arkansas —  using her child development background to help the defendant....

In her 2003 autobiography "Living History," Clinton writes that she initially balked at the assignment, but eventually secured a lenient plea deal for Taylor after a New York-based forensics expert she hired "cast doubt on the evidentiary value of semen and blood samples collected by the sheriff's office."...

"She was vigorously advocating for her client.  What she did was appropriate," said Andrew Schepard, director of Hofstra Law School's Center for Children, Families and the Law.  "He was lucky to have her as a lawyer ... In terms of what's good for the little girl?  It would have been hell on the victim.  But that wasn't Hillary's problem."...

February 25, 2008 at 05:13 PM | Permalink


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Tracked on Feb 28, 2008 2:00:52 PM


The article does not state whether the victim was actually interviewed or deposed in front of a court reporter by Clinton. The plea bargain was a good deal for the defendant if he was guilty. A defense lawyer must be a zealous advocate. One who has second thoughts should refuse the appointment.

Clinton keeps up this mantra about fighting for civil rights. Can anyone identify one single case which she filed under a civil rights statute in state or federal court? To falsely claim to be a "civil rights lawyer" rankles those that have a right to claim that honor. Is there a single case out there in Arkansas where her name is on a pleading in which any of the following issues were implicated: fair housing, public accommodations, police brutality, free speech, prisoners rights, mental health right to treatment, age discrimination, sex discrimination, race discrimination, voting rights?

If one is a civil rights lawyer in Arkansas then one's cases end up in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. What is Clinton's record in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals?

Someone in Arkansas or someone in the Thomas Eagleton Building in St. Louis help us out here.

I have been practicing since 1974 and have read virtually every important decision out of the Eighth Circuit. I have never run across her name in a single case.

When she was in the White House I never heard this claim that she had fought for civil rights as a lawyer. Maybe she thinks that working in a think tank in New Haven, Connecticut is being a civil rights lawyer. In the 1970s a civil rights lawyer is one who had to get out of a southern town before the sun set on the courthouse doors or be killed.

If Clinton is a poser on this claim to being a civil rights lawyer then she needs to end this campaign and go back to her mansion in New York.

Posted by: mpb | Feb 27, 2008 9:13:49 AM

Why do people think testifying in court should be an easy, painless, uncontested experience for crime victims (particularly rape victims)? The right to cross examination and confrontation means crime victims will not have a fun time in court when testifying for the state. Too bad. If the prosecutors care so much about the victims not having to "re-live the crime" or go through a vigorous cross-examination, they can just drop the charges. Defense counsel's job and ethical duty is to zealously defend her client, and that includes vigorous cross-examination, particularly of the complaining witness (if there is one). Don't blame the defense lawyer, and don't blame the defendant (who is presumed innocent, and may actually be innocent). You really shouldn't blame anyone for the victim's unpleasant courtroom experience, but if you simply insist on blaming someone, blame the prosecutor for bringing the charges.

Posted by: bruce | Feb 28, 2008 7:13:18 AM

Bruce is right on. I was tempted to address this "woe the victim theme" in my last message above. I believe that it is in the Maryland v. Craig case , 110 SupCt. 3157, (truncating face to face confrontaiton) that Justice Scalia talks in his dissent about the "flavor of the month" or the trendiness of stomping on the constitution to satisfy the reformers whether it is sentencing or protecting the witness. Oh, heck, I will look it up. Here is his whole quote:

"Because of this subordination of explicit constitutional text to currently favored public policy, the following scene can be played out in an American courtroom for the first time in two centuries: A father whose young daughter has been given over to the exclusive custody of his estranged wife, or a mother whose young son has been taken into custody by the State's child welfare department, is sentenced to prison for sexual abuse on the basis of testimony by a child the parent has not seen or spoken to for many months; and the guilty verdict is rendered without giving the parent so much as the opportunity to sit in the presence of the child, and to ask, personally or through counsel, "it is really not true, is it, that I--your father (or mother) whom you see before you-did these terrible things?" Perhaps that is a procedure today's society desires; perhaps (though I doubt it) it is even a fair procedure, but it is assuredly not a procedure permitted by the Constitution."

Hilary Clinton is good at jumping on "currently favored public policy". That is why she and Mr. Bill are still on the get tough on crime drum beat and oppose parity in crack/powder cocaine sentencing.
When one reads the article in Newsday about Hilary's exhilerating experience, one gets the notion that she accepted the apppointment to represent the defendant because she wanted to curry favor for the law school legal clinic with the local bar and the judges. And, she could not figure out a way to wiggle out of it.

Posted by: mpb | Feb 29, 2008 4:33:31 AM

That's a good Scalia quote, I'll have to remember that one.

Unfortunately all politicians (Obama as well) jump on the 'tough on crime' bandwagon - that's how politicians get elected. Unfortunately in many states it's also how judges get elected.

We live in a country full of people horrified by the prospect of crime, because it's all they hear about on the news (especially local news). It gives people a false sense of the rate of occurrence of violent crime, which is actually pretty rare. But all the news talks about is "sexual predators" stalking your children, murders, rapists, shootings, and more sexual predators. Predators in schools, predators in parks, predators in shopping malls, predators in cars, predators in libraries, predators in Starbucks... people are under the impression that everyone wants to rape their children. To a large extent it's such an egotistical fear, like your ugly fat greasy smelly mini-me children are so attractive that anyone would even want to rape them. It's never the fat ugly kids who get molested, which means 95% of parents have nothing to fear and should quit worrying about "sexual predators" harming their fugly children.

Anyway, I digress... it's this fear that permits, encourages, and requires politicians to use the "tough on crime" mantra in order to get elected. To be more accurate, it's the "tougher on crime than my weak on crime opponent" mantra. We've reached the point where the guy who wants to execute check kiters calls the guy who wants life without parole for check kiters 'soft on crime.'

Posted by: bruce | Feb 29, 2008 11:43:18 PM

The accused are entitled to legal defense. But court appointed lawyers can turn down assignments, too. If one styles oneself as an advocate for the accused, then perhaps an accused child rapist is an appropriate client. But when a lawyer styles herself as an advocate for children, then it is highly inappropriate to take on the defense of an accused child-rapist. You can call that whatever you want, but it isn't advocating for children. (I am a civil litigator).

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