The criminal-defense lawyer who served as the presiding director of the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyers Association wrote yesterday to tell me that Adam Reposa’s writ was denied and he has to start serving his 90-day contempt sentence.
Eighteen months ago I wrote, a bit critically, of the ACDLA’s role in the Reposa Affair. In yesterday’s email the then-director responded in part:
. . . . It is my understanding that he did not seek and did not get help from the TCDLA strike force, although many individual members of ACDLA helped him in his defense and appeal. I’ve never met someone who thought 90 days (day for day) was fair, but that issue was separate and apart from our decision. One thing you should know is that Adam never was a member of ACDLA. . . .
I see that last bit as revealing an ethical difference between ACDLA and the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association. When the HCCLA Board hears that a criminal-defense lawyer is in contempt trouble in Houston, the organization gets involved. We don’t ask whether the lawyer is an HCCLA member already; we don’t wonder whether our help will “preserve the image and integrity of our membership“; we don’t even ask if the lawyer was in the wrong; we just do what our job and defend him.
I’m not saying that ACDLA or even HCCLA could have kept Adam Reposa from spending Christmas in the pokey, but HCCLA has always managed to defuse the contempt situations in which we’ve interceded, to the benefit both of the lawyers (who generally don’t want to be held in contempt) and the judges (who generally don’t want to hold anyone in contempt).
Like great criminal-defense lawyers, great criminal-defense lawyers’ associations choose their clients’ best interests over their own images. Like the best criminal-defense lawyers, the best criminal-defense lawyers’ associations don’t shy away from unpopular causes.
Picking your battles is well and good, but for the criminal lawyers’ organization, as for the criminal lawyer herself, that can’t mean fighting only the battles of the clients who are righteous or innocent or even popular.