Guest Blog by Law Clerk Sarah Illg:
As a student in my last couple months of law school, I am frequently asked what kind of law I am going to practice upon passing the bar. The sad part is I have always dreaded my answer. I put my head down, look to the side and answer under my breath that I am going to practice criminal defense. Multiply this anxiety when I am speaking to someone with whom I go to church. I answer their question and immediately tense up waiting for their response. “Why in the world would you ever want to do that?” or my favorite, “so you are going to help criminals get out of the crimes they committed?” I immediately get defensive and nervous trying to explain myself. As a young female professional entering the legal field, I feel the pressure placed by society, and for some reason, I have felt shameful in my answer. After much thought and soul searching, I will no longer dread this question. I will no longer respond with my tail tucked between my legs. There is nothing shameful about being a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney.
America, Land of the Free, Home of the Brave
We live in a great country. Regardless of whether we can all agree on certain politics, I think we can all agree we are very fortunate to live in America. This country was founded on freedoms that are the epitome of what this country represents. The Constitution of the United States guarantees us certain freedoms which create the country, home of the brave, land of the free that we are today.
When I become a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer, I will also become a constitutional attorney. My job is to uphold the fundamental rights protected by the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the State of Georgia.
Asserting the rights of the accused will subject me to criticism. I understand that. However, these are the rights that keep us all free. Without rights, the executive power of the government is unlimited. With unlimited power, what stops the government from going after people who are its political enemies or going after those who have unpopular views?
The reason rights matter is a tyrannical government is only a few bad judicial decisions away. Think of the injustice of the Nuremberg laws and tribunals. Germany was the most advanced and cultured nation in the world. Yet, the judges in Nuremberg allowed injustice. They allowed the rights of a few to be violated. The result was an entire race of people were almost erased from existence and an entire world was immersed in war.
When lawyers hold the state to their burden of proof, or their rights to counsel, or the right against unreasonable search and seizure, those lawyers are protecting all of society. My job as a lawyer will be to make sure the State always meets it legal burdens because that is what sets us apart from much of the world. It is what would have saved the lives of the falsely accused in Germany.
I am no longer going to dread answering when someone asks me what area of law I am going to practice. I will proudly share that I am excited to be upholding the rights protected under the United States Constitution as a Criminal Defense Attorney. We all know a family member or a friend who has been arrested, and when you think of that person, you wish for them to have the best representation possible. I will represent the sons and daughters of scared parents navigating the legal system much sooner than they had hoped. I will represent business professionals who have found themselves in a situation they never thought they would be in - and yes, I will represent clients that have been through the legal system on more than one occasion. Everyone deserves a professional guiding them through the legal system, that is far from self-service. I will represent anyone in need because the Constitution does not discriminate and neither do I. Being a criminal defense attorney is not shameful. It is something for which I am proud. Being a criminal defense attorney is an honorable profession.