Last week, for the second time, WBEN’s Tom Bauerle attacked me for my representation of a client. And for the second time, he tried to write me out of the tax revolt movement I helped to start in November of 2004. He failed the first time and he will fail this time. Tom, I’ve been fighting the political machine in this town since you were a boy and I won’t stop now.
The first time, he attacked me for representing George Holt, an independent candidate for county legislature (albeit a former incumbent), who the machine was trying to knock off the ballot. So, I was doing what I usually do in election cases: fighting the machine to give the people a choice. In the course of that case, I also defended the First Amendment rights of a homeless man to carry petitions. Thus, I was doing what I usually do in court: fighting for the Bill of Rights.
I lost that case and the result was that the people were deprived of any choice in the primary or general election and the machine candidate won Soviet-style.
The most recent attack has to do with a website publisher who posted commentary about how much money an attorney had allegedly billed a government agency (the taxpayers in other words). The attorney sued for defamation. I am a First Amendment lawyer and a libertarian and I take a dim view of defamation suits directed at political speech, the core of the First Amendment.
I have been on the receiving end of barbs from this very same website but when a person comes to a lawyer, it’s not so different from when a person goes to the ER: you don’t give him an ideological litmus test and you put personal feelings aside. Lawyers have an ethical duty to accept clients even when their cause is unpopular.
History is replete with instances of distinguished sacrificial services by lawyers who have represented unpopular clients and causes. Regardless of personal feelings, a lawyer should not decline representation because a client or a cause is unpopular or community reaction is adverse. A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.
The personal preference of a lawyer to avoid adversary alignment against judges, other lawyers, public officials or influential members of the community does not justify rejection of tendered employment.
I find it extremely difficult to turn people down when they ask for my help, which is one of the reasons I am not a rich man.
As for my law practice, I try very hard not to take any case that would violate my libertarian principles. Thus, for example I do criminal defense work which enforces the Bill of Rights against arbitrary prosecution and I sue government officials who violate the Constitution. Obviously, this adherence to principle has reduced my income.
Neither of these cases violated my political principles or any principle upheld by the tax revolt or tea party movements. In fact, the opposite is true. Both cases vindicate the right of free speech, the legal basis for Bauerle’s living. The First Amendment was one of the key accomplishments of the Revolution sparked by the Boston Tea Party. In the most recent case, I am on the side of the right to publish commentary critical of the expenditure of taxpayer money.
In sum, Bauerle’s attack is not only wrong but exactly wrong, 180 degrees wrong.
I have always treated Bauerle with respect and even friendship and I defended him against an attempted boycott of his show (for which I was in turn sharply attacked.)
I will continue my fight against big government in this town that I started in 1975 when I worked to defeat Bill Stachowski in the Democratic Primary for county legislature.
Last year, I helped form a tea party coalition to get all the groups together to defeat the forces of big government including the local political machine. This year, the coalition will kick into high gear with bold plans to challenge several career politicians and to hold a people’s convention to choose our candidates.
I have said recently that the only thing that can defeat the tea party movement is itself. I urge all tea party activists to focus on defeating our opponents, not each other.
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