Letter: In support of defense attorneys, Ron Dolak

By on April 8, 2010

The recent news story about the attack on court-appointed attorney Ron Dolak exemplifies the difficulty of the job of being a criminal defense lawyer, particularly a court-appointed criminal defense lawyer.

Our Constitution and American way of life mandate that any individual charged with a crime, no matter how unpopular, is entitled to a legal defense by a licensed attorney. That right attaches not only to people who can afford an attorney but also to those who can’t. Lawyers in private practice usually can choose their clients. Sometimes the court will appoint a lawyer to a case. Appointed lawyers do not have the luxury of choosing their clients. Public defenders never have that luxury.

I have been a criminal defense lawyer for 40 years. I have gotten along well with 99.99 percent of my clients. Occasionally, a lawyer gets a client who, no matter what you do, it is either not good enough or the wrong thing. The lawyer who has been hired has the option of firing the client. The appointed lawyer must make do with what he is given.

The job is difficult enough in that sometimes it seems the general public doesn’t realize that no matter whom the individual or what the alleged crime, the representation by a criminal defense lawyer is not only necessary but mandated by our laws, courts and Constitution. Ron Dolak and all appointed lawyers, particularly public defenders, are to be complimented on their patience and perseverance. Without their willingness to work with unpopular clients charged with unpopular offenses, the criminal justice system would break down. Without their willingness to work with sometimes difficult individuals, the criminal justice system would grind to a halt.

Lawyers practicing in the criminal justice field often deal not only with sometimes hostile clients looking for someone to blame other than themselves, but also with a public which sometimes does not seem to understand that when the criminal defense lawyer fights for the constitutional rights of his or her clients, that criminal defense lawyer is guarding the Constitution for all of us. That holds true for any lawyer who takes on any unpopular cause.

My compliments are extended to Ron Dolak, the public defenders, and all criminal defense lawyers who accept appointments.

Fred M. Morelli, Jr.