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Can we judge defense attorneys by the clients they choose?

The Democratic Governors Association lambasted Republican gubernatorial hopeful Richard Irvin, the mayor of Aurora, for his work as a defense attorney.

For example: “(He) profited from defending some of the most violent and heinous criminals. Domestic abusers and sexual assaults. Kidnapper who molested a child. Reckless homicide. Even accused of child pornography. On our streets.”

It echoes Republican attacks on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson for her tenure as federal public defender from 2005 to 2007.

“The last Justice Jackson left the Supreme Court to go to Nuremberg and pursue the case against the Nazis,” Republican Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton said Tuesday, referring to former Justice Robert H. Jackson, who served as chief counsel in the prosecution of Nazi war criminals. “That Judge Jackson could have gone there to defend them.”

Cotton’s remark was, of course, mean and silly, but the DGA ads and Republican innuendo beg the question: when, if ever, is it fair to judge lawyers by the nature of the clients they serve? represent?”

• To find out whether attorneys have a duty to represent disreputable clients or can make their own choices, see Eric The Picayune Sentinel’s newsletter at