These are challenging times on both a personal and professional level. COVID-19 has altered most aspects of how we live, the economy generally and how we practice law.
Like the criminal justice system, the virus has struck disproportionately hard at communities of color, the poor and people without political power.
We are also witnessing the reactions to racist law enforcement practices resulting in the murders of presumptively innocent African American citizens. Many people across the United States have taken to the streets crying out for an end to police brutality and violence.
As criminal defense lawyers, we are uniquely positioned to help our country transform the concept of equal justice under law from an aspiration to a reality. We must accept nothing less.
My hope is that MACDL will be an instrument of change in these times. We have all the tools to do it. We have over 350 members, an active board and many talented lawyers committed to help.
MACDL has shown it can respond quickly and effectively. For example, MACDL recently responded – within about 24 hours-to requests from the Minnesota Legislature for comment on several current bills. We responded in writing with an excellent statement of well thought out and reasoned positions. Input only MADCL was able to advance so quickly and effectively.
MACDL’s response was compiled by many people dropping everything and working hard to produce our document. I am very proud of the many MACDL members who volunteered and put in the hard work for us to be successful. The effort was headed by Ryan Else who told me the day we were finishing up that he had barely slept the night before because he “was so excited.” Bravo.
We are also in the process of expanding the MACDL strike force. The purpose of the strike force is to represent MACDL members who are faced with actual or possible contempt proceedings, subpoenas, and the like.
My concern is that with the ratcheting up of the courts “post” COVID-19 there may be instances where issues arise with lawyers being forced to trial, with procedures that may be constitutionally or otherwise infirm and a host of other problems that may put the lawyer in the position of needing strike force help. I am the Eighth Circuit coordinator of NACDL’s lawyer’s assistance strike force, and I can tell you we are anticipating this on a national level. MACDL needs to be ready as well. If you are interested in serving on the strike force, please let me know.
Of course, one of the best things about being a criminal defense lawyer is hanging around with other criminal defense lawyers, and we have not been able to do that for a while. Hanging around together is important not just because it is fun. We also get to spend time with people who think like us, understand us, and know what we are talking about. This is important because it reminds us of our shared goals and commitment to seeking justice for our clients. It recharges our batteries. It is affirming.
We are still all together even if we are not able to gather at this time.
In these strange and upsetting times, I hope you will “lean in “ to MACDL and get more involved in who we are and what we do. There is a committee just waiting for you. If you want some help finding a place at MACDL, please call me and we will figure it out. MACDL is on the move. Let us keep it moving. Together we can help to create a more just world and have some fun in the process.