Defending Defenders

Wherein I Rise in Defense of Defense Attorneys—and of One, in Particular

By Ken K. Gourdin

A few years ago, former Federal Defender Stephen B. Killpack was attacked in his home after a then-unknown assailant broke in and seriously assaulted him. (Full disclosure: I know, like, and respect Mr. Killpack. He was an adjunct professor of mine in law school. We do not have any kind of relationship currently, and I’m sure he would neither recognize me nor remember me no matter how much I tried to jog his memory.)

For coverage of the sentencing of Mr. Killpack’s assailant, see the following address (last accessed June 10, 2017): http://archive.sltrib.com/story.php?ref=/sltrib/news/56895567-78/wall-killpack-prison-attack.html.csp. In response to a comment (long since deleted by the site’s moderators) which stated that Mr. Killpack essentially got what he deserved because of his profession, I responded (this list originally was numbered, but the system turned my formatting hinky; thanks, WordPress!):

Mr. Killpack was a defense attorney for many years. Still think he’s a blood sucker?

Though he could have made much more in private practice, he was a federal defense attorney [a federal public defender], which means he was a salaried employee. Though I’m sure he made a reasonably comfortable living, he wasn’t “raking it in” by any means.

Everybody hates attorneys … until they need one.

Nobody, blood sucker or not, deserves what happened to Mr. Killpack.

Another commenter jumped on the anti-attorney bandwagon, claiming that even people who need attorneys hate them, and that the primary reason why people need attorneys so often is simply because there are so many attorneys. I responded:

Respectfully, that comment betrays a limited understanding of the scope of what attorneys do. Only a small percentage of attorneys are litigators, and even many litigators spend only a comparatively-small percentage of their time in the courtroom. Good attorneys win in litigation; great attorneys do their jobs well enough to avoid it. I also dispute your contention that even those who need attorneys hate them: repeated studies have shown that a client’s relationship with an attorney is affected most, not by the outcome of the case in which the attorney represents the client, but rather by such factors as whether the client felt the attorney really listened to him, understood his concerns, made his goals a priority in the representation, and so on. Even when the outcome of a case or representation isn’t favorable to the client, attorneys who do these things are far more respected by their clients than those who do not, and by and large, that includes the vast majority of people in the profession.

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About kenngo1969

Just as others must breathe to live, I must write. I have been writing creatively almost ever since I learned to write, period! I have written fiction, book- and article-length nonfiction, award-winning poetry, news, sports, features, and op-eds. I hope, one day, to write some motivational nonfiction, a decent-selling novel, a stage play, and a screen play.
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