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Two Types of Expression of Rebellion in the Law

I realize that many people don't want to serve on juries, but Daniel Ellis went too far in trying to escape his obligation, as described in this article, Prospective juror incurs wrath of Cape Judge (July 11, 2007). According to the article, Ellis told the judge that he was homophobic, a racist and a habitual liar, presumably to avoid jury service. The judge's reaction? Decidely unhappy:

In 32 years of service in courtrooms, as a prosecutor, as a defense attorney, and now as a judge, I have quite frankly never confronted such a brazen situation of an individual attempting to avoid juror service," Barnstable Superior Court Judge Gary Nickerson told Ellis, according to a preliminary court transcript published in the Cape Cod Times.

Whether Ellis disagrees with forced jury service or was simply trying to make a joke, he now faces perjury charges for his little rebellion.

On the other hand, John S. Koppel, an appellate attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, is expressing his rebellion, or at least personal disagreement, with his employer's policy in a most courageous way. In this opinion piece in the Denver Post (7/10/07) (hat tip to Trial Ad Notes), Koppel writes:

As a longtime attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, I can honestly say that I have never been as ashamed of the department and government that I serve as I am at this time. The public record now plainly demonstrates that both the DOJ and the government as a whole have been thoroughly politicized in a manner that is inappropriate, unethical and indeed unlawful. The unconscionable commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentence, the misuse of warrantless investigative powers under the Patriot Act and the deplorable treatment of U.S. attorneys all point to an unmistakable pattern of abuse. In the course of its tenure since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has turned the entire government (and the DOJ in particular) into a veritable Augean stable on issues such as civil rights, civil liberties, international law and basic human rights, as well as criminal prosecution and federal employment and contracting practices. It has systematically undermined the rule of law in the name of fighting terrorism, and it has sought to insulate its actions from legislative or judicial scrutiny and accountability by invoking national security at every turn, engaging in persistent fearmongering, routinely impugning the integrity and/or patriotism of its critics, and protecting its own lawbreakers. This is neither normal government conduct nor "politics as usual," but a national disgrace of a magnitude unseen since the days of Watergate - which, in fact, I believe it eclipses.

Koppel also realizes that his expression of his opinion may cost him:

I realize that this constitutionally protected statement subjects me to a substantial risk of unlawful reprisal from extremely ruthless people who have repeatedly taken such action in the past. But I am confident that I am speaking on behalf of countless thousands of honorable public servants, at Justice and elsewhere, who take their responsibilities seriously and share these views. And some things must be said, whatever the risk.

I'm still not sure whether I completely agree with Koppel's position, but I can applaud the guts that it took for him to put it out there. It's not often that we see lawyers willing to speak their mind, knowing of the consequences that will follow. 

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 11, 2007 at 05:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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