Biases Make Bad Lawyers

I remember the first time I represented a known member of a white supremacist organization who prominently displayed a swastika tattoo on his hand. I was a young lawyer, just starting my practice, and his wife paid me to represent him before I knew about his affiliation in that group. I remember the surprise in his eyes when he first saw me during my visit to him at the jail. It was an interesting first client meeting. I considered abandoning the representation once I learned his views. But, needing the fee, I put aside my feelings and pressed forward.

His wife was one of the nicest people. She disagreed with his views and hired me because I was black. Throughout the representation, I was always trying to make sure that my feelings were not interfering with what was best for the client. I constantly had to be honest with my feelings and manage my fears. Doing so, we were able to obtain a very favorable result for the client. He and his wife were very happy. I learned the value of our constitution and the value of unbiased counsel. Thereafter, I started getting calls from other members of his organization seeking my representation.

One of my concerns is that criminal defense lawyers often let bias and fear influence the outcome of cases. It is one of the reasons many of us have concerns about someone who leaves the DA’s office immediately representing people in first degree felony cases….. Also, the fight of some lawyers is determined by how the client treats them. And the fight of other lawyers is determined by their view of the value of the person they represent. This cannot be. Lawyers simply should not accept representation if this is the case. Some clients are assholes and treat their lawyers badly…. And some are poor and uneducated…. But none are destined to get in trouble or commit crimes. None are disposable and “throwaway able.” We should not assume that. We have to avoid the mindset that “if it wasn’t this case, it would have been another one later on….” That mindset will cause us to push our clients into making bad decisions. It will taint our representation.

If you think I am wrong, please let me know. And let me know why. This article might back up my feelings…

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/white_lawyers_may_have_biases_that_hurt_their_black_clients_says_op_ed_call

About Eric Davis

Eric J. Davis is an assistant public defender with the Harris County Public Defender’s Office. He has been a criminal defense attorney since 1997 and was in private practice prior to joining the PD Office. Before his defense practice started, he spent 3 years as a prosecutor honing his trial skills. He has tried over 100 cases to verdict as lead counsel, winning over 80 percent of them. In 2006, Mr. Davis received an “Unsung Hero Award” from the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association. In that same year, he received the “Man of the Year Award” from the Houston Business and Professional Women’s Association, and helped free a man who had been wrongfully imprisoned for over 18 years. In 2016, Eric received the “Mentor of the Year Award” from HCCLA for his continuing commitment to training lawyers.

In 2003, Mr. Davis received a commendation from the Texas State Legislature for his service as Special Counsel to the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Mr. Davis was lead counsel for the Commission to remove a judge from office who was mistreating citizens by wrongfully jailing them and addressing them in an abusive manner in court.

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  1. […] colleague Eric Davis wrote (in Biases Make Bad Lawyers <http://hcclatv.com/biases-make-bad-lawyers/&gt;), “Lawyers simply should not accept representation if they are unable to be truly zealous […]

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