Ohio House 28th & 67th: Bar Association Denounces Unfair Attacks For Representing Criminal Defendants
Hooray for the Cincinnati Bar Association!
John Kohlstrand has an excellent post at the Ohio House Democratic Caucus Blog calling attention to this story in the Cincinnati Enquirer. It recounts a letter sent by outraged leaders of the non-partisan professional association to Republican candidates and the newspaper, saying they are "fed up with political ads that attack lawyers for doing their jobs." In particular, Republicans have sent mailers attacking 28th Ohio House District candidate Connie Pillich (D-Cincinnati) and 67th Ohio House District candidate Jeff Ruppert (D-Franklin), both defense lawyers, tarring them for representing criminal defendants in court.
Pillich is called unworthy because she “defends the worst of the worst.” The ad shows a set of handcuffs latched around a cell phone bearing the words “Just call Connie.” The bar association explains that the ad is unfair because Pillich’s job as a Hamilton County public defender is to represent accused criminals who cannot afford lawyers. “You take these cases because that is what we’re supposed to do … It’s a necessary function,” said John Norwine, executive director of the Cincinnati Bar Association. “I thought the letter the party sent out is trash.”
The article quotes both Ruppert and Pillich as saying their work representing poor defendants is a constitutionally necessary part of the legal system. “It’s just obscene that they want to toss the constitution out on its tail,” Pillich said. “I guess it means that only rich people like Bob Ney and Kenneth Lay get to have lawyers.”
Pillich’s opponent, Rep. Jim Raussen R-Springdale), called the criticism fair because lawyers "can make a choice as to which cases you wish to defend and which you don’t.” That, however, is not how the system works because "many lawyers, especially young ones like Pillich and Ruppert, agree to take on public defender cases to gain experience and to provide a public service," Norwine said. "They are assigned the cases and are required to provide a vigorous defense."
“When this ugliness includes attacks on lawyers for performing constitutionally required duties … the Cincinnati Bar Association must speak out,” wrote bar president Patrick Fischer in a separate letter to the Enquirer.
A similar unfair attack has been levelled by Betty Montgomery (R-Perrysburg) against State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Liberty), smearing him as soft on crime because of his work as a criminal defense lawyer. Anyone with a passing familiarity with our system of justice knows that this is an outrageously misleading and unfair attack. Shame on the Republicans for stooping to that level.