A Personal Statement About Professional Fortitude

Today’s tone will be a little earthier and more personal than I am normally willing to indulge here.  If coarse analogies offend, please go read this vulgarity-free light reading instead.

Lawyers far more skilled and dedicated than I have taken risks in their profession over the two centuries of the practice of law in this country. Would that I had learned more of their good examples in law school, and less about the useless trivial intellectual speculations of some of my law professors, who “opined deeply” while drinking down our tuition.

Lawyers who defended the targets of lynch-by-alternative-means in the South. And not only in the South, let’s be clear. Atticus Finch was a brave attorney in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, but his real-life counterparts have at times needed to worry about starvation for defending those whom “local justice” pre-determined as guilty – this in the pre-Gideon days when the right to counsel was even more theoretical than it is now, and local attorneys were ordered to take on cases at no charge and at the risk of considerable opprobrium in their communities.

Radical lawyers like William Kunstler who had the nerve to go inside Attica State Penitentiary during a prison riot (or, as some would maintain, an uprising). The lawyers who contributed sweat, treasure and sometimes blood to the formation of highly controversial organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP and (much as I myself reject their Marxist roots) the National Lawyers’ Guild, and who litigated and organized despite real fear.

Some have taken smaller, but still real, risks. Conservative stalwart Ted Olson made a lot of his fellow conservatives unhappy by standing up as an appellate attorney for same-sex marriage as subject to the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, and therefore by logical conclusion lawful. Liberal stalwart Alan Dershowitz has stood up for the free-speech rights of Nazis and Holocaust deniers to speak freely and even opposed private censorship of their speech. Whether same-sex marriage or free speech by antisemites is a “good thing” isn’t the issue; the issue is whether attorneys have the courage to get up and do their jobs when someone else tries to turn up the heat.

My examples have leaned “lefty” as a sample pool, but many examples of staunchly conservative attorneys who took risks in their professional lives in the midst of conservative legal advocacy also exist.

As some of my readers (or am I now down to “reader” in the singular?) may be aware, my law office is now involved in a case of some modest public note. This is not the place for discussions of the specifics of that case, but rather of some of the surrounding environment of that case. Many reports of “SWAT”-ing – the practice of filing or calling in false criminal reports as a harassment and intimidation tactic – have emerged in the growing narratives surrounding the “greater metropolitan case”. Who exactly is doing the “SWAT”-ing isn’t entirely clear, though I certainly have my suspicions. For me as a practicing attorney, the issue is whether I continue to do my job like a professional, or whether I start letting myself get “nervous” about having the police greet me with tactical shotguns at my front door because a “dead body” was, per some fraudulent report, being dragged out of my apartment. The positive examples of attorneys of generations past, attorneys who were also public citizens, urge maximum fortitude.

Fortunately, my local police captain was extremely receptive to my letter faxed to him describing my concerns; he assured me in his manifest professionalism today that he has gotten these sort of foolish calls before and has a highly disciplined squad who are simply not going to go “stormtrooper”, and who have been fully briefed and directed to check with him first before they assume that any report about me might be true. I had occasion to work with two of his detectives and one of his uniformed officers in January when two other community members and I got robbed at gunpoint outside my apartment; I will be seeing them again in August and September when the three suspects stand trial or plea out. So I am not particularly worried about getting “SWAT”-ted; whatever is out there doing the “SWAT”-ing should fear the police captain’s irritation, as he is clearly not in the mood to put up with any games.

I do know that there have been some petty efforts to interfere with my relationships with some legal referral sources of mine. But when I tell you I don’t care, I don’t care. I have no boss to “harass”; this law shop is mine for my clients’ welfare and I answer to no one but my clients and the courts.  That’s that.

Either you have the courage to do what needs to be done as an attorney, or you don’t. Fortunately, I do. At the risk of ungentlemanly coarseness, mine are made out of high-quality tempered American brass, and that fact settles the discussion.  Indeed, the best way to discourage this sort of nonsense is to respond to it with moral fortitude, measured, reasonable responses and, to the extent strictly lawful, vi et armis.

PS – welcome all of you visiting from Instapundit – sorry I didn’t clean up the place a bit better. Wish I had some beer to offer but alas, we don’t have “Google ColdDraft 1.0″ yet installed on the site….

30 thoughts on “A Personal Statement About Professional Fortitude

  1. Good on ya’ gov. I’d say that they are steel. You make me feel good about having a brother in law as a lawyer.

  2. Well Sir, if a Google ColdDraft 1.0 did exist I would gladly hoist a cold one to you. You, the other bloggers, and the lawyer involved make me proud to be a member of the bar. But alas, patent law has never required the fortitude you are currently exercising. However, if I am ever called upon, I hope to be found worthy.

  3. Its lawyer stories, like yours, that help me realize that your profession has members who are worthy of their craft. Now go bust some metaphorical heads in court.

  4. I’ll second the standing you to a round if I see you in the pub.

    Why aren’t there more lawyers like you?

    Orion

  5. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. Bruce is doing something. A lot of people are, and it’s what had started turning this great injustice around. That’s why the thugs are resorting to thuggery. They are desperate because good men are doing something.

  6. Mr. Godfrey, Esq. :

    I appreciate your comments. I understand that you probably come to this from a liberal standpoint, given your stated specialties. To be honest, it doesn’t matter. Free speech shouldn’t be a left/right issue – at some point, people of all political slants are going to have to deal with aggrieved people trying to shut them down.

    You’re a stand-up guy if there was one. If you ever need an industrial safety expert for a case, drop me a line. Best wishes to you and your sons.

  7. Mr. Godfrey,

    Thank you for having both guts and principles … and a brain to make sense of it all. If Kevin’s not around when you hit the pub, I’ll make certain you don’t have to buy your own drinks.

    Thank you for protecting our right to free speech.

  8. Breitbart lives! Thank you for standing against these tactics in your corner of the world…you are not alone, and now you’ve made it clear to others that they are not alone.

  9. Thank you for visiting. While I as a center-left voter was not a fan of the politics of the late Mr. Breitbart, I respected his achievements and his raw nerve.

  10. The most impressive folks in this ordeal have been those who take on the thugs to support freedom of speech for someone they disagree with. They are *truly* supporting freedom of speech.

  11. But conservatives were fine with dopers getting SWATed. Or at least were silent. Any power you give government will eventually be used against YOU.

  12. Let me add: without the Drug War the F&F attack on gun rights would not have been possible. Look at the Alcohol Prohibition precedent. ATF ring a bell?

  13. Godfrey has abandoned his so-called principles and sided with fringe right-wing bloggers. I hope he’s happy that he has turned his back on the working men and women he used to represent.

    “But when I tell you I don’t care, I don’t care.” This is quite obvious. Mr. Godfrey is willing to jump into bed with extreme right-wing bloggers at the drop of a hat and one can only hope that he was simply too ignorant to see who is involved in this nonsense. It is hard to believe that anyone with any self-respect, let alone someone claiming to represent working people, would knowingly start working for these miscreants, mischief-makers, morons, and malcontents on the fringe right that have somehow managed to twist their obsession with some obscure 1970s criminal into an attack on THEIR freedom of speech.

    Mr. Godfrey, by gleefully jumping to the aid of this trumped up nonsense from the fringe anti-union and pro-corporate right has proven that he is no longer a friend or ally of labor.

  14. A number of your facts cited are in substantial error, as are (accordingly) your conclusions, at least as regards this office.

  15. If anything matters, then everything matters. Your principles matter, and yours are on fine display.

    Thank you.

  16. Bravo, Counselor. You stand or you don’t. Many don’t. Thank you for standing.

  17. Give em hell, Bruce!

    I’m an attorney in VA myself, and I’ll be referring anyone seeking an atty in your area to you.

  18. Congratulations, and keep up the excellent work! These are scary people you’re battling, and I admire your fortitude. Even after 5 years as an ADA and 4 years as pardon attorney (among other duties) for our governor, I never had to face threats of physical violence or deal with the outrageous swatting tactics. Worst I ever faced was an overly-sensitive federal judge who liked to file questionable bar complaints against lawyers who spoke their mind too insensitively.

    Again, kudos.

  19. These actions of yours are not liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, left- or right-wing – these actions and beliefs of yours are what make America great.

    Good on you, sir!

  20. Godfrey has abandoned his so-called principles and sided with fringe right-wing bloggers.

    Do you mean to say that these so-called “fringe right-wing bloggers” don’t enjoy the protection of the First Amendment? or do you subscribe to the “free speech for me, but not for thee” philosophy? I’m curious, what are your principles, precisely, Mr. Big Labor?

  21. “…or am I now down to “reader” in the singular?…”

    No, sir, you are not, and in fact, you’ve added one more.

    FriendofLabor above has completely missed the point, perhaps on purpose: If anyone’s speech is not free, no matter how obnoxious it may be to some, then no one’s speech is free.

    At some point, I would love to read your comments on the First Amendment and what it really means. Too many people seem to think it means “I can say whatever the hell I want and no one can do anything to me”. I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that the First Amendment prohibits infringement of free speech by the government, and someone who has been SWAT-ted has clearly had his First Amendment rights infringed.

    God bless you and your family. May you all be safe.

  22. Thank you, for standing up when others would shut the door. I’ve found it incredibly easy to determine who I would have at my back as friends by one simple “test” – do you stand up for free speech even when it’s someone saying something you disagree with? It’s easy to believe in freedom of speech for yourself or others who have your same views, much harder when you have to defend someone you disagree with. Freedom of speech isn’t about hearing what you want to hear, it’s about freedom for everyone, even those on the opposite side of your morals.

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