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Scott “Paladin” Greenfield yesterday took on former prosecutors advertising for criminal defense cases by suggesting that they can do things for the accused that other people can’t. There are lots of angles that could be taken on this issue; Scott’s is that

The pitch is intended to capitalize on a basic misperception by the public, that the skills one develops as a prosecutor, characterized as “experience in criminal law,” translate into the skills one requires as a criminal-defense lawyer.

Capitalizing on a basic misperception by the public in order to market oneself is unethical, and Sheriff Greenfield isn’t afraid to say so. “We can’t do it. We shouldn’t do it. Yet it’s done all the time.”

But there’s more:

. . . [T]his isn’t the most insidious aspect of marketing oneself as a former prosecutor. A secondary implication, which is often suggested, and sometimes overtly claimed, is that by being a former prosecutor, a criminal-defense lawyer has some inside track to getting his old buddies to let him have special sweetheart deals, or that he’s got some special friendships with the judges before whom he appeared day after day after day, who will do him (and therefore you, dear client) special favors that would not come your way but for his inside connections. . . . This is an outrage and affront to everything that we do.

Brian Tannebaum touches on this particular topic — connections — in The Truth About Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer:

“Knowing” people in the system never hurts, but no otherwise incorruptible judge is going to suppress evidence because she’s friends with the lawyer, [and] no prosecutor is going to “take a dive” in court because he’s on the defense lawyer’s basketball team. . . .

There’s another side that the client should probably consider before hiring the lawyer who claims that he can exploit his relationship with the judge or the prosecutor to the client’s advantage. What he’s saying is that he’ll exploit his relationship with the judge for your sake.

This suggests that a) he is friends with the sort of people who would take a dive and violate their duties for the sake of their friendship with him; b) he is the sort of guy who would ask them to do so; and c) he thinks it’s okay for a professional to take a dive. This is always a two-way street — birds of a feather and all that.

So: the lawyer has had a relationship with the prosecutor for, say, ten years and expects to for twenty more. He has had a relationship with you for ten minutes and expects to for six more weeks.

Which relationship do you think he’ll forsake for the sake of the other?


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