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I just got back from a vacation. Yes, a vacation for me is taking three days off, driving 500 miles to go fishing, worrying about my clients, putting out a fishing line, catching no fish, worrying more about my clients, and coming home wondering why I didn’t stay away longer. As I drove home, I drove onto several stretches of freeway that were named after fallen police officers.
I respect police officers who have died in the line of duty. And unlike Donald Trump who believes people who are captured are not heroes, most of these fallen police officers probably qualify for hero status. But what struck me most, don’t laugh please, is that no stretches of highway were named after criminal defense attorneys.
As Clarence Darrow once put it “To be an effective criminal defense counsel, an attorney must be prepared to be demanding, outrageous, irreverent, blasphemous, a rogue, a renegade, and a hated, isolated, and lonely person – few love a spokesman for the despised and the damned.” Maybe why that is why there are no bridges, freeways. or highways named after criminal defense attorneys.
Is what we do any less than police officers? Sacrificing family, finances, and any semblance of a normal life to defend those who society cannot stand? Yes, maybe we have not driven off of highway overpasses or been shot in the line of duty, but we have suffered heart attacks, stress, and estrangement from our loved ones because of our commitment to justice.
I propose that we start naming our highways after criminal defense attorneys as well. We could start with the Clarence Darrow Freeway after the person who essentially put criminal defense on the map.
Even though she is very much alive, I propose we name a bridge after Judy Clark. She has, at much personal sacrifice, defended the uni-bomber and that lady named Susan Smith. who most of us have already forgotten, who drove her children into a lake causing them to drown. Even though she “lost” in the defense of the surviving Boston Bomber, she had the courage to continue with a vigorous defense despite bomb threats of her own and much personal scorn. The bridge should be an attractive one: if not for the fact that it already has a name, I would recommend that the Golden Gate Bridge be named after her.
Finally, another crusader against the death penalty was my colleague, Michael Millman. He personally observed me argue a death penalty case to the California Supreme Court and he took the San Francisco Trolley to do it. One day I was wondering why he hadn’t replied to one of my emails (not like him) and less than a month later he tragically died from cancer. I think he deserves an important freeway named after him. I recommend the one in Marin County that passes San Quentin to remind the people of California that not only here lies a house of execution but also the memory of a man who fought for the lives of the condemned.
Is it too much to ask to have a few roads and bridges named after defense attorneys? I am not really quite sure how to go about it: would I call the Department of Public Works or ask that the matter be placed on a ballet?
Finally, I made one mistake in this blog. I said that NO bridges or highways have been named after criminal defense attorneys. Somewhere there must be one named after Abraham Lincoln though I don’t know of one in my city. Sadly, while almost everyone remembers him as a President, few remember that he was also a criminal defense attorney.