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A Few Words on the Prosecution of Attorney Ben Kuehne and the Right to Counsel

The right to counsel is one of notion that is often attacked.  When asked the cocktail party question, “What do you do?”  I answer: I represent the accused.  I am a litigator.

The follow up from my questioner usually ranges from “Man, how can you do that?!!” to “Well, someone’s got to do it.”  Rarely, if ever, do I hear, “That’s great.  Keep up the good work.”  I need to print out little cards with the following sentences I saw on a postcard in some gift shop: “I promise to NEVER Question Authority.  I promise NEVER to bring up my rights.”

The public often decries this right, guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to The Constitution.  It’s almost as if people somehow think that the more lawyers that are involved, the less likely we are to have a quick, just resolution.  There’s the famous, often misunderstood, quote from Shakespeare’s King Henry VI, “The first thing we, do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”  Act IV, Scene II.  Shakespeare’s point, read in context, is that to ensure a quick, unjust resolution, we must get rid of those people who will not stand down.  Get rid of the lawyers, and the machine churns on, unimpeded.

The public should be keenly interested anytime the government brings an action directly against an attorney.  What are the motivations for the prosecution?  What is gained by the government?  What is lost to the individual?  A recent prosecution of Ben Kuehne, criminal defense attorney in Miami, Florida, for money laundering ended this week with the dismissal of all charges.  See the Wall Street Journal blog post about the case here. You can read the nuts and bolts of the case in the Miami Herald here.

The net result of the prosecution’s efforts in this case were to cement the idea that targeting lawyers for practicing law is bad for the country.

`This ruling deals with an area of law that is close to my heart,” Kuehne said. “It is to the right to counsel in criminal cases that I have dedicated much of my career at the Bar.”