Wednesday, April 23, 2008

And I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for your meddling right to a trial!

Radley Balko never fails to disturb. He links to a story at, which informs us:

Defense attorneys would be banned from advertising their expertise with drunken driving cases under a bill advancing in the Senate.

Sen. Rosalind Kurita, a Clarksville Democrat, successfully added the provision to a bill that would create an online registry of repeat DUI offenders in Tennessee

Kurita says officials have a hard enough time convicting drunken drivers without lawyers advertising their expertise in the field and offering discounts to DUI defendants.

It may not pass, or survive Court scrutiny, but the fact that a legislator even suggested it in public is a warning sign. Hysteria over drunk driving in this country has been a dangerous force for years, but this is a new wrinkle. It’s hard to see how the justification, “Officials have a hard enough time convicting drunken drivers without lawyers advertising their expertise in the field” can be read as anything but an explicit statement of Kurita’s desire to deny defendants due process by stopping them from hiring adequate counsel.

I’m especially interested by her hostility to “discounts.” Apparently, poor people with 6th Amendment rights are especially menacing.

If this is a good idea, why limit it to drunk driving? Surely there many crimes- rape, murder, child molestation, armed robbery- that are worse. I can easily imagine the rhetoric used to defend this: “You think protecting the so-called ‘rights’ of drunk drivers matters more than protecting children? You monster!” Replace “drunk drivers” with “murderers” or “drug dealers” or “child molesters” as needed.

On the plus side, this gives us a useful way to measure a society’s political and moral health. If someone who has actually been elected to your legislature feels comfortable saying something like this in public, that’s a cause for concern. If a member of your legislature says something like this in public, and the result is anything other than a hellish gale-force shitstorm of public outrage, you’re in deep, deep trouble.

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