There's another associate at my firm who was previously a prosecutor here - in the courthouse where I practice now. Now he's at the firm but he doesn't do criminal defense - I'm the only criminal defense associate.

It makes for an interesting dynamic. He's one of the only people in my office with whom I can intelligently discuss my criminal cases. He technically has an interest in my success since my cases are the firm's cases - and therefore, he has an interest in sharing his "prosecutor's secrets" and tips for working in this criminal court and this prosecutor's office. On the other hand, he still has a prosecutor's "how can you defend those people" mentality.

So, somehow, he says to me the other day, I forget what the original conversation was about, but he says, "I guess I'm a real stickler for the rules. That's why I was a prosecutor."

But the thing is, I'm a stickler for the rules too. That's why I'm a criminal defense attorney. I think the rules and laws should be enforced fairly and evenly. I think it's my job to make judges, prosecutors, and witnesses play by the rules.

That's why I have a real problem with police officers who steal marijuana from the evidence locker and get high with their wife.

I have a problem with people who build their career on enforcing the law and being tough on crime, but also patronize prostitutes.

I am a criminal defense attorney, and I am a real stickler for the rules.

I know that not every prosecutor is such a "rule stickler." I know there are prosecutors who use drugs, or drink and drive, or worse. I know that not every criminal defense attorney is such a rule stickler, it takes all types. But I don't know why there's this stereotype that because I can "defend those people," I must not care about rules. I don't know why there's this stereotype (perpetuated by Law & Order) that as a criminal defense attorney, I must throw ethics rules to the wind, while prosecutors walk such a straight line. Obviously my experience is pretty one-sided, but I have seen quite a few ethical violations by prosecutors, and I just haven't experienced any by my colleagues in the criminal defense bar.

So, I'll say it again, just in case there was ever any doubt. I am a criminal defense attorney, and I am a real stickler for the rules.


  1. I tell people this all the time! It is my usual answer to "how can you defend those people." I usually say, "I am a total rule follower. My job is to make sure everyone follows the rules...LEOs, prosecutors, and judges. Without defense attorneys, no one is there to make sure rule enforcers follow the rules themselves." Glad to hear that I am not the only one (even though you said it way better than I could).

  2. Some people think Rule of Law means that you and me have to toe the line and live within The Law.

    Other people think Rule of Law means that the government has to abide by the law.

  3. exactly! i have had this exact same conversation with people who seem to assume that criminal defense attorneys are rule flaunters.

  4. In my, albeit limited, experience it is the criminal defense attorneys who are sticklers for the rules while the prosecutors and judges like to ignore them in their quest to convict as many people as possible.

  5. i like to think of myself as the police for the government BUT that said, I do not condone, support or otherwise endorse the "rule of law" as it applies to civilians. I think most, if not all, laws are poorly written and construed and seem to target those with the least amount of armor. I became a PD not because I'm a total rule follower,(although i think that is legit) but because I just don't see the logic in forcing certain groups of people to follow the rules while allowing others to flaunt them. my two cents.