CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Ohio lawyer Martin S. Pinales, who practices in Cincinnati, is the current president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and he is none too pleased about political attack ads that attack lawyers for representing unsavory clients. Pinales used his bi-monthly column HERE in the group's house organ to vent, and cited Republican Betty Montgomery's tactics against Democrat Marc Dann in the contest for Ohio Attorney General as particularly reprehensible.
Dann won, but Pinales found it "appalling" that she stooped to imply he might coddle child molesters. Although he election is past, Pinales won't let Montgomery off the hook, and got the last word. He spread the tale to perhaps 50,000 lawyers via his column in The Champion, the defense lawyer magazine. "Montgomery stated that her opponent, state Sen. Marc Dann, was not qualified for the job because he had defended child molesters. The ad showed an actor, who looked like Dann, sitting in a courtroom with his arm around a tattooed prisoner. Luckily, the people of Ohio saw through such desperate tactics and elected Dann as Ohio's new attorney general."
He mentions other similar attacks from around the country, including Cincinnati State Rep. Jim Raussen's blast at Democrat Connie Pillich, a public defender who represented indigent defendants. Pinales' really got his juices flowing on that. "It is interesting that we rarely see political attack ads that besmirch the character of a lawyer who represents high-profile, well-heeled white collar defendants."
Pinales is right up to a point. He makes a strong argument that criminal defense lawyers should be immune from attacks because of the important role they play in the justice system, and because they often have to advocate for villains.
But what about the civil side of law? What is fair game in politics? Is there a line somewhere? Does a lawyer who takes a case for clients who contend poll watchers should be allowed to question black voters in Ohio receive a pass from criticism? Should a lawyer who argues that abortion is illegal -- or legal -- be immune? Are lawyers who contend that the Ten Commandments must be posted in public buildings -- or who say they should not -- inoculated against attacks if they decide to run for office?
Sometimes, these issues are aired in U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearings when lawyers are nominated for federal judicial office. The NACDL Web site is HERE.