The conservative Internet is excited about Hillary Clinton’s potential vulnerability in 2016 surrounding her criminal defense of a man accused of raping a child. It is a misplaced excitement.
Clinton was a public defender at the time, and it was her job to defend the accused. She was morally, ethically and professionally obligated to defend him. Even people accused of the worst crimes are entitled to a defense under our justice system. One need only follow the news about people convicted of crimes they did not commit to understand why it is important that criminal defense attorneys (and especially public defenders, who represent people who cannot afford an attorney) need to represent their clients to the best of their ability.
Defense attorneys (especially public defenders) are a critical component to our criminal justice system. They should never be attacked simply for doing their job. When politicians or political activists attack criminal defense attorneys for defending accused criminals, they show that they either do not understand the nature of our adversarial system or that they simply do not care about due process. That is worrisome, especially if those people are forming public policy.
Clinton apparently believed the man she was defending was guilty, yet defended him anyway. Was she wrong to do so? No. It is not a public defender’s job to determine the guilt or innocence of a client. That is for the jury to decide. It is the public defender’s job to represent that client to the best of her ability. What if Clinton sabotaged her own case, believing the man was guilty, and she was wrong? Would “law and order” conservatives then be silent at her vigilantism?
If we really believe in limited government, and if we really believe in civil rights and due process, we should not be attacking Hillary Clinton for doing her job. We should be praising her for being willing to get into the muck that most of us could not imagine getting into ourselves. We should be praising her for taking a role in our criminal justice system that is reviled, but critically important to seeing justice is actually done.
I will never under any circumstances vote for Hillary Clinton for anything. I vehemently disagree with her political ideology and her political agenda. I sincerely hope she never becomes President, and I am sure that I will harshly criticize her as she moves closer to running for President in 2016. However, this is not an area where I can condone attacks on her. The principle here is far more important than any short-term political gain we can achieve by attacking her performance in a 1975 criminal case.