Friday, August 6, 2010

To the Anonymous Commenter

To the anonymous person who left a detailed comment regarding a Bay Area judge:

Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to post your comment. Unfortunately, I cannot publish your comment. I am an attorney, and my license to practice law is a privilege given to me by the state bar. Being a member of the bar requires me to adhere to certain rules, including ethics rules. Some of these rules prevent attorneys from publicly criticizing judges.

You may wonder how someone like me--who favors free speech and disfavors content-based speech restrictions--can reconcile his personal beliefs with his refusal to publish your comment.

First, I am a pragmatic man. As long as I am a lawyer, I exist to serve my clients. If local judges think I will publish negative commentary about them, some of them may do whatever they can to harm my cases. The law gives judges much discretion, so it is unwise to give a judge any incentive to go against you.

Second, in theory, the judicial branch exists as a check on the passions of the people. This special role requires judges to be independent. Judicial independence is difficult to achieve if lawyers are openly criticizing judges to a public that lacks the training to understand difficult legal concepts. As it stands, American judges have, for the most part, remained above the political fray and are viewed as neutral by most Americans. This favorable perception is due in part to maintaining a closed system of criticism, which gives the public fewer opportunities to sensationalize court hearings and rulings. In short, cases are unique, rights are precious, and unsubstantiated public criticism about specific judges makes it more difficult to execute judgments and have faith in the legal process.

I hope you understand my position, and I hope you will continue to read my blog.

Update on March 2017: I've become extremely critical of lawyers as well as judges; however, I no longer have an active caseload, so my primary duties are to the public and to the truth, not to my clients.  

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