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July 26, 2011


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Patrick S. O'Donnell

Indeed, and let's hope people do not draw any inferences about the lawyer based on the charges against his client (as happened in the case of lawyers who did pro bono work for accused terrorists detained at Guantanamo). Contrary to what some prominent legal ethicists believe, I don't think lawyers should be praised or blamed for exercising their professional discretion with regard to whom they decide to represent. As Brad Wendel has said, "the lawyer should be seen as endorsing more general political values embodied in the legal system," and Geir Lippestad's rationale for agreeing to represent Breivik is evidence of his more-than-verbal appreciation of the value of that endorsement. All defendants are entitled to due process and unqualifiedly deserving to be treated with dignity. As Joseph Raz explains, "When people are called upon to make substantial sacrifices in the name of one of the fundamental civil and political rights of an individual, this is not because in some matters the interest of the individual or the respect due to the individual prevails over the interest of the collectivity or the majority. It is because by protecting the right of that individual one protects the common good and is thus serving the interest of the majority."


The defense lawyer is probably thrilled to get to defend a high profile case and then make statements like those quoted above in order to place himself on the appropriate highground. I think Alan Dershowitz said that the way to win any argument is to argue to the appropriate level of abstraction - and this lawyer has certainly done so. Heck, the fact that this defense attorney is already participating in interviews with the media makes me think he is at least partially in this for the publicity.

Dang - maybe I am getting much to cynical! :)

Johan Berggren

Geir Lippestad is a long time member of the norwegian labour party and no doubt loath his client.

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