There has been a great deal of public discussion over the last month in South Carolina about criminal defense lawyers. The discussion has taken the form of opinion pieces in media regarding DUI laws and political attack ads on our televisions. It has run the gamut from sensationalized negative portrayals of criminal defense attorneys, to steadfast support of the profession as a fundamental part of our democracy.
Ours is a nation and state founded upon the rule of law. It is the rule of law which counters tyranny. Our founding fathers knew tyranny and they knew that there is no stronger check on tyranny than the right to counsel in defending ourselves when we stand accused by the Government. Forty-five (45) percent of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were lawyers. Fifty-eight (58) percent of the signers of the United States Constitution were lawyers. Those founding fathers knew that the only thing standing between the individual citizen and the awesome power of the government would often be a lawyer.
The criminal defense bar in South Carolina serves the public by not only protecting the constitutions and laws of the United States and South Carolina, but also in working with legislators, law enforcement and victims advocacy groups to ensure that the criminal justice system in our state is fair and practical. The recent passage of Emma’s Law in this state would not have been possible without the work and assistance of the criminal defense bar. We are fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, brothers and sisters. We are the small businesses that help form the backbone of our local economies. We are the neighbors and friends who make up our communities.
Despite all that he accomplished throughout his career, President John Adams held that his defense of British soldiers charged with the Boston Massacre was “one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.” Having helped draft our Declaration of Independence and found our country, President Adams knew that the rule of law was the bedrock upon which our republic was founded. He understood the importance of every man being entitled to defend himself from accusation. President Adams understood that his defense of despised criminal defendants was one of the most patriotic things he had ever done.
To attack someone for their defense of a person charged with a crime is not only shameful, it is un-American. Those who perform this patriotic duty for our country deserve our thanks, not scorn.
– Kitty Sutton
Executive Director, S.C. Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (SCACDL)