The arguments Alan Dershowitz made during the Senate trial as to why Trump’s behavior didn’t constitute an impeachable offense were roundly panned by most legal scholars. Since lawyers tend to engage on an intellectual (rather that personal) level, that is how they responded.
Initially, Dershowitz suggested that his arguments had been taken out of context, which wasn’t true. But now he is pretending to occupy the high ground, while playing the role of victim, by claiming that his detractors are simply demonizing defense lawyers.
I have been demonized by many on the left who refuse to understand why a liberal Democrat would defend the constitutional rights of a controversial Republican president. This is the mirror image of the McCarthyism of my youth, when many on the right could not understand why anti-communist centrist lawyers would defend the rights of communists.
Those lawyers were demonized as I am being today. I have a thick skin, developed over many years of defending controversial and unpopular clients and causes. But I am concerned that young lawyers will be deterred from representing such clients and causes for fear it will destroy their careers. I am hearing that from young lawyers and students.
Demonizing defense lawyers for representing politically incorrect clients and causes is the true road to tyranny.
First of all, I suspect that most “liberal Democrats” parted ways with Dershowitz a long time ago for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that he has become a regular commentator on Fox News as a disseminator of that network’s propaganda.
But when Dershowitz claimed to be concerned about young lawyers being deterred from representing controversial clients, I immediately did a Google search to see if he had said or written anything about a civil rights lawyer named Debo Adegbile.
Back in 2013, Tom Perez—who had served as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights—became the Secretary of Labor. Obama nominated Adegbile to replace Perez at the Civil Rights Division. He had spent the previous twelve years working as a lawyer at the NAACP. But his confirmation blew up when he was accused of defending a “cop killer” during his tenure there.
The case involved a racially-charged trial in the 1981 shooting death of a white Philadelphia police officer, Daniel Faulkner. Mumia Abu-Jamal, a black journalist, was convicted and sentenced to death. The NAACP began handling his appeals before Adegbile started his tenure with the organization. But he eventually contributed to the filing of a 2009 court brief arguing that Abu-Jamal faced a discriminatory jury—an appeal found to have merit by a judge. Abu-Jamal’s sentence was eventually reduced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
That is all it took for Republicans to launch a campaign against Adegbile’s confirmation by suggesting that he was an extremist who “helped get a cop-killer off the hook.” In the end, seven Democrats joined Republicans in blocking a vote on Adegbile’s confirmation. It was one of the most shameful examples of political capitulation to racist sentiments in the years just prior to the Trump presidency. As then-Attorney General Eric Holder said, “It is a very dangerous precedent to set for the legal profession when individual lawyers can have their otherwise sterling qualifications denigrated based solely on the clients that their organizations represent.”
When he had his chance, Dershowitz certainly didn’t lead the charge in defending Adegbile for his minimal role in representing a politically incorrect client. So here’s my message to the famed defense lawyer: Spare me your crocodile tears of concern, Alan. As your colleagues in the legal profession have pointed out, your arguments on behalf of Donald Trump were not only wrong, they were dangerous. It’s time for you to take some personal responsibility for your own actions. You are not the victim here.