Publication information
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Source: Law Notes
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Defending the Seditious”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: August 1918
Volume number: 22
Issue number: 5
Pagination: 81

“Defending the Seditious.” Law Notes Aug. 1918 v22n5: p. 81.
full text
Leon Czolgosz (legal defense); Leon Czolgosz (trial: personal response).
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; Charles J. Guiteau; William McKinley.


Defending the Seditious

A PERSON recently put on trial for a violation of the espionage law made public a bitter complaint that several prominent lawyers whose services he had endeavored to secure had refused to undertake his defense. His surprise is a natural outgrowth of the frequent libels which have portrayed the bar as an aggregation of intellectual mercenaries, ready to espouse the cause of any who had the means to pay a fee. Even in normal times there are many lawyers who will not undertake a case whose success they believe would be inimical to the public welfare. In war time there are many more whom no money can hire for the advocacy of the slacker and the traitor. It is purely a matter of personal ethics and patriotism; no law or rule constrains them, which reflects the more honor on those who scorn to serve the enemy when they may safely and profitably do so. It is of course urged that no matter how guilty a man may be or with what crime he may be charged he is entitled to the benefit of counsel. He is, but he is not entitled to the defense which the seditious agitator wants; a defense in which the counsel becomes for the time the mouthpiece of his client’s “principles.” He is entitled to such a defense as was made for the assassin of President McKinley, in which every legal right of the accused was secured but no sworn servant of the law prostituted his intellect in an effort to becloud the issue. Did not that trial more worthily represent the dignity of the law and the just performance of the duty of counsel than the ten weeks of wrangling which characterized the trial of Guiteau? And, as in the case of Czolgosz, the defense of a person accused on substantial evidence of disloyalty should be made by appointed counsel, a man drafted for duty and paid from the public purse that no suspicion of having profited from the Kaiser’s propaganda fund may cling to him. With characteristic clearness of thought the leaders of the bar have seen the distinction between the defense of the poor and friendless object of popular denunciation, which is one of the most glorious traditions of our profession and the defense of the secret agents of a foreign enemy.



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