The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

July 11, 2014

Hillary Clinton's lawyerly past

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It should not be necessary to write this column.

Lawyers represent clients. Criminal defense lawyers represent clients accused of crimes — sometimes horrible, evil clients accused of heinous crimes. It is the ethical and professional responsibility of these lawyers to defend those clients as vigorously as possible.

Sometimes such representation results in less than perfectly just results. As Justice Benjamin Cardozo famously put it, the criminal goes free because the constable has blundered. That is the way — the only way — an adversary system of criminal justice can function.

End of story, or it would be, except that the decades-old criminal case at issue here involves Hillary Clinton.

To back up, Clinton — then Hillary Rodham — was a 27-year-old law professor in 1975 running a newly formed legal aid clinic at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

As reported by Glenn Thrush in Newsday in 2008, a “hard-drinking factory worker” named Thomas Alfred Taylor had been accused of raping a 12-year-old girl, the daughter of a family he was living with. Taylor had asked the judge to fire his court-appointed male lawyer and have a female attorney represent him instead. There were only a half-dozen women practicing law in the county at the time, and the judge picked Clinton.

When the prosecutor, Mahlon Gibson, called to tell her the news, “Hillary told me she didn’t want to take that case, she made that very clear,” Gibson told Newsday. Clinton herself described the incident in her autobiography, “Living History”: “I really didn’t feel comfortable taking on such a client, but Mahlon gently reminded me that I couldn’t very well refuse the judge’s request.”

So Clinton went to work. She mounted an attack on the physical evidence against Taylor, enlisting a noted forensics expert to cast doubt on the validity of the physical evidence against her client.

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