Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Captain Justice, Defender of the Innocent

This piece of hilariousness has been making the rounds this week, so I can’t help but talk about it as well.

By way of background, attorney Drew Justice (yes—Justice is his real last name) represents a criminal defendant charged with attempted aggravated burglary in the Williamson County, Tennessee Circuit Court.  The prosecutor filed a motion in limine to prevent Justice from referring to her as “the government” at trial and suggested alternative names that would be acceptable, including “assistant attorney general.” 

Justice responded by making a First Amendment argument, which probably would have been sufficient to prevail, but then took it a step further.  If the court granted the prosecutor’s motion, Justice requested that his client not be referred to as the “defendant,” which has a negative connotation and, instead, be referred to as “Citizen Accused” or, alternatively, “that innocent man.”  Justice also requested that he be given a distinguished-sounding title, such as “captain” to match the prosecutor’s “general” title and not be referred to as a “lawyer” but, rather, “Defender of the Innocent.”   

Of course, I wouldn’t recommend filing something like Justice’s response.  While snarkiness provides tons of fodder for folks like me, it doesn’t usually go over well with judges.  As discussed in my post here, it’s generally best to let judges draw conclusions for themselves.

However, in this case, I think the response works because it highlights what the defense attorney believed was the ridiculousness of the prosecution’s motion.  And it does so without calling the motion ridiculous.  I can’t imagine a situation in which the use of the term “government” when referring to the prosecutor in a criminal trial would be inappropriate or derogatory, as the prosecutor claimed, but maybe I’m naïve.  At any rate, Justice’s response was the winning one because the judge denied the prosecutor’s motion.

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