People often ask me the toughest part of being a public defender, or a defense lawyer in general. Surprisingly, the toughest part of doing this is the realization that you don't represent one person, but you represent thousands of people, not just now, but in the future.
When I speak to a DA or a judge about a case, I cannot do so with an eye only to that one case. If I were to present myself with the attitude that everyone is innocent, that every cop is lying, that every prosecution is tainted, etc, then I will quickly wear out my believability.
But, that is a tough thing to give up when you consider that every client is entitled to all of my best efforts, including a presentation on their case that presents them in the best possible light. How do you reconcile these two often very adverse duties? If I go into court and suggest that the clearly guilty person is innocent, a victim, or whatever, what will this do to all of my future cases when it becomes clear that he is not? If no DA can believe me, and no judge can believe me, then my ability to do my work well is severely curtailed. You can be a good lawyer and be trusted and respected by your opponents (I'll generally lump the DA and Judges into my "opponent's" corner).
Does this mean I have to kiss their collective asses so as to curry favor with them? I don't think so. I believe that they can see me doing my work hard, doing all of the things that need be done, without grandstanding on any particular case. They can realize that I have things issues that need presenting, and they will see me do it without a lot of yelling or shouting or personal emotional involvement. I believe that getting personally and emotionally involved is a bad way to represent your client.
But, in the end, there is that serious question, are you representing this client? Or your future ones? Or all of them? How do you decide which client deserves the ranting, yelling screaming and declarations of innocence on his behalf and misconduct on everyone else's? Is it fair that the lawyer decides this? Is it ethical?
One last thing, and I have brought this up before. Did Mark Geragos ultimately hurt himself for the future with his representation of Scott Peterson, as well as his appearances on CNN? I don't know, and I'm not pointing to anything in specific that I disapproved of, but this is an example. When you go so far in declaring the innocence of your client that just about everyone believed to be guilty, have you hurt your credibility for the future? However, was there a different way that he could've represented Peterson to the hilt without doing that?
Food for thought. I'm curious especially about the thoughts of other defense lawyer's, as well as prosecutors or any judges who may be lurking here. Also, any legal ethicists have any thoughts on the subject. As always, anyone else is free to comment as well. Please post a comment and let me know what you think.