I generally avoid writing about the so-called "blawgosphere" – the universe of bloggers who write about the law. There’s an inbred quality to such writing that destroys interest in the subject matter. It is said that those who can’t do teach. What of the cast of lawyers who write about what other lawyers are saying about what other lawyers do? Deliver me from the set of Deliverance, please.
But I was struck this week by a few posts at a site called Lawyers on Strike. The author was pseudonymous and disabused of the legal system – until this week. He has revealed his identity, John Regan, and he is posting a series of essays about why he is seeking asylum in Canada. Regan, a former lawyer in the Rochester area in New York, fled the country as a result of a case he handled for a young woman named Sephora Davis. He is no longer an anonymous critic; now he is simply disabused.
Regan contends Ms. Davis was raped at knife point by a lawman and then pretextually prosecuted to cover up the rape. He says the lawman, his colleagues, prosecutors and judges have all worked together to cover up the rape. Ms. Davis is innocent, yet she has been convicted and is now unjustly incarcerated. As a result of his fight on her behalf, he was threatened, perhaps with bodily harm. He’s left the country, turned his back on the American judicial system, and now promises to tell all about justice denied.
I do not doubt for a moment that miscarriages of justice occur with distressing regularity in our courts. And I know from personal experience the gnawing, even haunting, sense that comes of watching a client in whom one believes whisked away in chains. The criminal courts are a place of heartbreak and horror. Anyone who tells you otherwise has either not spent much time in the courts or prefers illusion to reality.
But I question whether a lawyer does a client much good by fleeing the country, or by giving up in disgust over the system’s failures. Sephora Davis has no such luxury. She needs counsel passionately committed to her case. She can’t be set free from the safety of Canada. "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life his friends," Jesus is reported to have once said. Lawyers, too, are called from time to time to risk all. As the Sephora Davis case unfolds on Regan’s blog, I approach with skepticism the claim that Regan’s flight from the country was necessary. Did he walk off the battle field leaving a client behind?
This is a harsh assessment. I reserve judgment on whether it is warranted or justified. Let’s see what evidence Regan can marshal for his claim that Davis was knowingly railroaded by court and prosecutors. Rarely a day goes by in which conspiracies of this sort are not alleged. Proving them is difficult.
Regan will be lambasted by the law’s cheerleaders for being a loose cannon. His motives, indeed, his mental health, will be called into question. Did Regan use the Davis case as a pretext all his own, a means by which he could flee a cruel profession and declare moral victory? It’s possible.
But there is no tyranny quite so complete as the tyranny of reasonable minds. When the law speaks of reasonable persons, I am always puzzled. Just who is the reasonable man or woman? I don’t think I’ve met one yet. When our interests are at stake we are all more than a little feral.
The law is a blunt instrument, an imperfect tool, and sometimes it serves as an instrument of injustice. Regan claims the law was turned to evil use in the Sephora Davis case. He intends to prove it during immigration hearings in which he seeks refugee status in Canada. That hearing will begin in late September. Between now and then, he will assert his claims on his blog. I, for one, will be an eager reader. If he is right, then Ms. Davis has been horribly abused, and, perhaps, Regan was driven from the country.
But as the story unfolds I cannot shake a sense of disappointment. Wouldn’t Ms. Davis have been better served by Mr. Regan’s staying here in the United States to fight?
Yes, the law is often misapplied, and is sometimes used to further corrupt ends. I am open even to the possibility that the law itself is but a means of social control imposed on the weak by those with the means to seize wield the law’s cudgels. The more I read of anarchists, the more persuaded I am of their critique of systems of domination and control. Acting up is good, as the dispossessed in London did several weeks ago: When the safety of retreat is no longer possible, the real fight begins, the one in which all is risked in desperation.
Somehow, it appears as if Regan’s pulpit is too far and too conveniently removed from the scene of the fight he now wages: the fight is here, not in Canada. I am hoping he can persuade me I am wrong.