Devil’s Due (A Defense Lawyer’s Approach to Lawfare)

Jim Coleman (pictured below) is a longtime law professor at Duke and Co-Director of the Wrongful Convictions Clinic.

In my day job, I constantly fight law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges who are indifferent to whether my clients are innocent.

Judges disregard misconduct by cops and prosecutors; indeed, they often protect them from public scrutiny.
In one case, I am fighting the NCIS over surveillance video that an agent described as showing my client leaving and returning in a car to a military base at a critical time. In fact, the video shows clearly that my client was not in the car when it returned, which means it’s unlikely he was in the car when it left. Unfortunately, NCIS cannot account for the missing video of cars leaving the base. So, what is my choice? Trying to discredit the cops, prosecutors, and judges accomplishes nothing. To get relief, we need all three. So, we try to force them to do their jobs, as the law and constitution require. If there is a case in which the FBI obtained a FISA warrant in violation of the constitution, expose the facts that prove the claim and then hold the court and the FBI accountable so that they will do their jobs honestly in the future. Trying to discredit the agency and court over a single case, with the goal of causing the public to lose faith in both, undermines the rule of law. I think we need cops, prosecutors, and judges. The way to preserve the rule of law is to hold them accountable, not destroy them.


From A Man For All Seasons:

Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.