Longtime commenter Thomas Griffiths writes, in response to my efforts to represent, pro bono, the British guy charged with aiding his wife’s suicide:
Honestly, I’m friggin baffled by one of my public heroes’ actions. My right brain, says it’s the right thing to do when a Real CDL learns of incompetence, while the left side says WTF? In the end my gut says, there are plenty other folks you and / or dream teams can visit with and offer assistance in their release and or post conviction issues.
I get this. There are many people sitting in jail represented by lousy lawyers such as Dionne Press. I’m reminded of the scene from an early season of Boston Legal in which Eugene, walking down a jail corridor, asks, “how many of you are innocent,” raising whoops and cheers from all the cells. Some of them surely are. Many are not. Does it matter? And how is a lawyer to choose?
Before I take on a case for free there has to be something special about it.
Many of those who would like my help, I probably couldn’t help much. I like to contribute my time where I can make a real difference or where the subject matter is interesting to me.
I volunteered to help a guy with an Arabic name charged with carrying a gun in the airport.
I volunteered to help an Occupy Houston protester.
I volunteered to help a guy who had been harmed by a DEA operation gone horrifically wrong.
I volunteered to help a woman being represented by Andy Nolen.
Many times I’ve volunteered to help young black men facing a crucial choice point: plead guilty and be branded a criminal by every cop who runs your ID from now on, or fight.
When I take a pro bono case, it’s not because the client wants me but because I see a likely payoff in it for me—never money nor publicity, but a good story or entertainment or education or just the satisfaction of demonstrating that not all lawyers suck and making a difference that nobody else would make in a human being’s life.
No, I’m no hero. I’m just like any other junkie, except that my drug often makes other people’s lives better.