Monday, December 15, 2008

Profiles in Courage: Lawyers who defend unpopular clients

Over the past year, we've seen several instances where lawyers have faced pressure when they defended unpopular clients, either from the mass media or, worse, from lawyer associations. This issue has arisen, for instance, in the context of the Manu Sharma case, the Nithari murders, and when lawyers in U.P. 'banned' legal representation for those accused of crimes of terrorism. These episodes resulted in some commentary in the media, as reflected in posts on this blog here, and here. More recently, V. Venkatesan drew attention to the analysis offered by AG Noorani which appeared in the EPW.

The issue has arisen again, thanks to the Bombay Metropolitan Magistrate Court Bar Association's resolution barring its members from representing Mohd. Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving assailant in the Mumbai attacks of November 26. This recent post collates some of the commentary inspired by the episode.

The normative arguments involved - at least for lawyers well-schooled in the demands of the rule of the law - are clear enough. Here is a piece that appeared in Livemint yesterday which profiles several such individuals who take on the thankless task of actually defending such unpopular clients. It documents the challenges that such lawyers face, which regrettably includes hostility from people who should know better: their professional colleagues.

(hat tip: Anuradha RV)
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