You can imagine my surprise yesterday when this ten-day-old post suddenly lit up with new comments. They read like typical troll comments, but they were from lawyers. Local lawyers, in fact, and ones who seem to have quite a bit of experience. I believe I have multiple mutual friends with at least one of them, though I doubt he realizes that. I have no clue what possessed all of them to comment at once.
Like typical troll comments, they made ad hominem attacks. One writer accused me of presuming my clients guilty, another accused me of going off “half-cocked” without knowing my facts, and yet another seems to think I merely hold myself out as someone who practices criminal defense and accused me of throwing gossip into the potential jury pool. They asked condescending (and obvious) questions, like whether I’d read the DR (police report) and if I was joking by “speculating based on facts presented by the news media.” One commenter even seemed to suggest the criminal defense bar wasn’t talking about this. That’s bizarre, as I haven’t made it from a metal detector to a courtroom in Maricopa County Superior Court for the past few weeks without overhearing some attorney mention it.
The comments missed the point of the post entirely. They read it as commentary about David DeCosta’s guilt rather than commentary about a hypothetical situation I find fascinating. They must have missed it when I said that he “apparently” tried to sneak in drugs, that “my guess” is that the client just happened to get two lawyers who gave in to pressure, that “my hypothetical is far-fetched, to say the least,” and that “I’m sure I’ll never know” how much of a role the client played in what happened with those lawyers.
The second comment from Pamela Nicholson, a Phoenix lawyer with ton of experience and a good reputation, is the most interesting. She insisted that “this is not a ‘fascinating’ exchange among defense lawyers . . . this is a very serious discussion about what a criminal defense lawyer does, and does not, do.” It may be that kind of discussion now, but that has nothing to do with the original post.
If David DeCosta gets acquitted or the case gets dismissed, I’ll probably write about it. It’ll have no bearing on what I discussed in that previous post though. I hypothesized about what I thought was a fascinating situation. If the situation turns out to be different, my thoughts on a hypothetical relating to that situation as it appeared at the time will not have changed. Some commentators seemed to get the point and contributed something productive to the discussion.
I don’t just re-post news stories. I also don’t break news stories. I blog about things that interest me and that I think will interest my readers. My goal is always value added blogging. The blogs I read, the ones that made me start blogging, are not ones that merely recite the facts of news stories. They discuss ideas, the implications of the current events or personal and professional experiences.
I’m grateful for those troll-like comments because they made me think. As a defense lawyer and a blogger, am I really obligated to refrain from discussing the implications of the alleged facts of any criminal news story until the defendant is convicted? Would I have been wrong blogging about Bernie Madoff before he was convicted? Can I ethically blog about Allen Stanford? Will my credibility as a defense lawyer be destroyed if I put up a post on Rod Blagojevich tomorrow? The answer is obvious.
It certainly wasn’t my best post. I could have worded it better, and the same is true of my comments. However, I doubt there’s any way I could have expressed my ideas without angering those commentators. I could have filled the post with “allegedly,” “supposedly,” and “according to the news,” which I basically did, and they still would have been upset. It hit too close to home, and the tone of the comments reveals that. I imagine a police officer blogger in Chicago or Atlanta would get a similar response posting commentary related to this or this, respectively.
I am amused by the sudden, massive response I got. I hope this post gets the same response, and not just because the previous response appears to have resulted in a massive increase in my website traffic and search engine relevance. It’s interesting to see how fellow members of the criminal defense bar reacted to commentary related to one of their own. I wish they’d have discussed it in a friendlier manner, and I’ve probably succeeded in pissing off three of my colleagues, but I guess that’s the risk of publishing my thoughts: people will miss the point.