July 11, 2007

Fred On The Nature Of Representation

Fred Thompson sent an essay over to my good friends at Power Line to discuss the nature of legal representation -- and what it means for the lawyers. He notes that the current smear tactic of branding the attorney with the views of the client has been tried by his opponents before. Of course, Fred hasn't lost a race yet:

A lawyer who is a candidate or a prospective candidate for office finds himself in an interesting position because of the nature of the legal profession and the practice of law. This is true when the practice was as varied as mine, and it’s especially true when the office being considered is the Presidency of the United States.

The easiest and most generally used tactic when running against a lawyer is to trade off a general perception that most people dislike lawyers. Goodness knows that a lot of lawyers have earned disfavor but, as it turns out, folks understand our system better than a lot of politicians think they do. In my first run for the Senate, my opponent tried the old demagoguery route – “He has even represented criminals!” – to no avail.

A first cousin of this ploy is to associate the lawyer with the views of his client. Now-United States Chief Justice John Roberts addressed this notion during his confirmation hearings. “… [I]t’s a tradition of the American Bar that goes back before the founding of the country that lawyers are not identified with the positions of their clients. The most famous example probably was John Adams, who represented the British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre.”

Roberts pointed out that Adams was actually vindicating the rule of law. Every person, unpopular or not, is entitled to representation. He further said, “That principle that you don’t identify the lawyer with the particular views of the client or the views that the lawyer advances on behalf of the client, is critical to the fair administration of justice.

Be sure to read the entire essay. Not only is it well written, entertaining, and effective, but Fred chose the perfect forum in which to publish it.


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Fred Thompson showed who he really is today in an article posted and approved of by the lawyers of Powerline. It's not pretty. Recently, a group advocating abortion rights has said that it had hired Thompson as a lobbyist some [Read More]

Comments (18)

Posted by crossdotcurve | July 11, 2007 8:22 PM


"Fred Thompson did not lobby for this group, period."

- Mark Corallo, Thompson spokesman, Los Angeles Times

Posted by Jim | July 11, 2007 8:42 PM

So, I guess Fred did represent the group after first absolutely denying it. As a lawyer, I sympathize with him.

Ed--just two points: the group in California would have been a domestic group, not a foreign group, so there was no need for Fred to have registered for this engagement. And, if you take what the group wrote at face value, they hired Fred and not the law firm that he quickly joined. Perhaps he was able to make use of his representation of this client in cutting a deal to join his DC law firm?

Posted by gahrie | July 11, 2007 8:54 PM

If the worst the left can come up with is that Thompson was once a lobbyist who acted like a lobbyist, and a lawyer who acted like a lawyer, Ms. Thompson can start picking out the White House carpet now....

Posted by Stephen Macklin | July 11, 2007 9:05 PM

In the last paragraph, Thompson clearly telegraphs that he has made his final decision on entering the race - and what that decision is. (not that there was ever a lot of doubt)

Posted by Carol Herman | July 11, 2007 10:18 PM

Frugal, too. (FDR had a reputation for frugality. It goes over well with the public.)

And, Thompson hit pay dirt.

InstaPundit had the link up, which is what directed me to seeing this at Power Line. And, now you have it, too.

It's a beautifully written piece. I copied and pasted it into an email and sent it around to family & friends.

And, yes, Fred Thompson indicates he's capable of thinking. Capable of waiting. And, poised to enter the race.

Which, right now, has a conglomeration of failed idiots at the bottom. Including, McCain. So, I guess not only is Fred waiting to announce ... You've got this cluster of dopes who are racing around the nominating arena; but the show won't start ontil a bunch of them are gone. Otherwise? They waste everyone's time when it comes to the "debates."

Though I don't think we're gonna see "debates" as much as we're gonna see the Internet IGNITE! This holds so much promise.

Now, what did it cost Fred? It's a wise man who can get his messages across at the least possible price.

Posted by James I. Hymas | July 11, 2007 10:30 PM

I couldn't agree more.

Do the noble sentiments expressed above apply to Ramsay Clark?

Posted by RBMN | July 11, 2007 11:11 PM

crossdotcurve and Jim,

As I read Thompson's article, it's not about any single case. It's about the next client story you read about that sounds bad, and the story after it that sounds worse. Thompson is talking about all that "good stuff" the Clintons (or whoever) are saving to leak to the media at just the right time. We haven't seen that stuff yet.

Posted by Brian Epps | July 12, 2007 12:44 AM


"Fred Thompson did not lobby for this group, period."

- Mark Corallo, Thompson spokesman, Los Angeles Times

From the article:
I’ve experienced another gambit of those schooled in the creative uses of law and politics: dredging up clients – or another lawyer’s clients – that I may have represented or consulted with, and then using the media to get me into a public debate as to what I may have done for them or said to them 15 or 20 years ago. Even if my memory serves me correctly, it would not be appropriate for a lawyer to make such comments.

I don't see how one quote excludes the other. Could you please point it out?

Posted by brooklyn | July 12, 2007 1:31 AM

Lawyers are outstanding...

But it is perhaps wise to have someone managing a Nation as a CEO, who has some solid experience with running - governing something on his own (as a leader).

I don't doubt Sen. Thompson would be a fine President, even with the low consideration I maintain these days for any Senator.

We have two tested Leaders, who have proven themselves with the sole responsibility of some sincere challenges in this RACE.

Rudy and Romney should not be overlooked.

Posted by Brian Epps | July 12, 2007 2:22 AM

I cannot vote for gun control Rudy in any primary, and he's only ghot a chance as an anti-Hillary. Call me single issue if you must, but I cannot vote for someone who does not trust the citizens with their own defense except to protect against a worse candidate.

As for Romney, he's a great guy. If he wins the nomination I will happily vote for him. But the next to last thing we need is another managerial president. Washington needs a troubleshooter, not a CEO.

I'm not overlooking, I'm just not really warming up too much to what I am seeing.

Posted by Jim | July 12, 2007 7:33 AM

There's a difference among (a) lobbying government officials for a client; (b) giving legal advice to a client; and (c) defending a client in court.

There's no doubt our legal system wants and needs lawyers to do (b) and (c) and that lawyers shouldn't be tarred with the names and causes of those clients.

But I do see a difference between those and lobbying government officials for a client. Many people (not just lawyers) can do lobbying just fine.

Posted by gab | July 12, 2007 8:55 AM

This is spin of the worst sort by the pro-Fred forces. He's admitting that he did lobby for pro-choice group and chooses to admit it in the most obfuscatory manner possible.

He tries to misdirect us by claiming he was giving legal advice when in fact he was just a paid shill.

Shame on anyone for trying to brand this as anything but spin of the worst political sort.

Posted by not the senator | July 12, 2007 10:38 AM

"There's a difference among (a) lobbying government officials for a client; (b) giving legal advice to a client; and (c) defending a client in court."

Exactly! And Fred is trying to do a verbal misdirection by equating them.

I have no problem with a lawyer representing the worst sleaze bags, our legal system requires a vigorous defense. Advocating for legislation on the other hand is a voluntary act. You either support it or you are willing to say things you disagree with just for the money. If it's the second, then Thompson is a shill and/or whore. If I was him, I'd rather be thought of as supporting the position of his clients.

And doesn't this admission mean he was lying the other day when he allowed his campaign to say, "Fred Thompson did not lobby for this group, period."

Overall, not a good performance out of the actor in this affair.

Posted by Jack Okie | July 12, 2007 11:17 AM


I have enjoyed reading your blog for several years now, and while the organization and content just get better and better, I'm concerned about a growing deficit in another area:

There has been a sharp fall-off in the quality of troll you attract. There used to be a whole set whose ravings and twisted logic were at least at times entertaining - why, you could almost see the tinfoil hats! But this current crop, well, it pains me to observe how far below the mark they fall; it would be a stretch for them to reach for sophomoric, or pathetic. Reading your comments now is too often an exercise in tedium. Please, please, see what you can do to attract a higher class of troll.

Thank you.

Your faithful reader.

Posted by not the senator | July 12, 2007 11:31 AM

You're right Jack, when you can't attack the message then attack the messenger.

You've learned your lessons well, grasshopper.

Posted by Jack Okie | July 12, 2007 3:37 PM

not the senator:

Just for you I re-read Thompson's essay. The following is the gist of each paragraph as I read it:

1. The nature of the legal profession and the practice of law puts the lawyer-candidate in an "interesting" position.

2. The most common tactic used against a lawyer-candidate is to try to use the idea that most people dislike lawyers, but the people understand our system better than the demagogues do.

3. Another tactic is to associate the lawyer with the views of his client. Refers to Chief Justice Roberts' mention of John Adams representing the British soldiers charged in the Boston massacre.

4. Roberts points out Adams was vindicating the rule of law - not identifying the lawyer with the client is fundamental to the fair administration of justice.

5. Abe Lincoln's views divorced from positions he took as a lawyer.

6. Roberts gave advice to gay-rights group other lawyers in his firm were representing.

7. Another gambit is to dredge up Thompson's or another lawyer's clients that Thompson may have represented or consulted with, then using the media to attempt to get Thompson in a public debate about what may have been said or done 15-20 years ago. It would not be appropriate for a lawyer to make such comments.

8. Independence and individual rights could not be protected without lawyer-client confidentiality or if lawyers were identified with the positions of their clients.

9. Inspired as idealistic teenager by ideal of representing a just cause against powerful forces. Not all his actual clients measured up to that ideal.

10. Practice of law is how you support your family. Can represent client as long as client does not lie or act improperly while you are representing him. Always tried to give best professional advice.

11. Has derived great satisfaction from decision to become a lawyer. Helped a number of folks, including half a dozen or so lobbying clients.

12. CV exerpt - prosecuter, Watergate Counsel, etc.

13. Practiced law during "movie days".

14. Case that started movie career.

15. Not surprised career is being examined - expects more. He intends to keep in mind the appropriate distinction and separation of law and politics, and does not intend to do a diservice to either of them or himself.

Please find anywhere in this essay an "admission" of lobbying for NFPHRA, or any reference to NFPRHA at all.

Posted by gab | July 12, 2007 4:21 PM

Mr Okie - only an apologist of the first order would think this wasn't a tacit admission that Fred (a) represented an organization that was pro-choice and (b) lied about it when confronted with the evidence.

Think about it - why would he even bother with this verbose essay? Why?

And why would you waste so much of your time when presented with what you must know is the truth?

Posted by Jack Okie | July 12, 2007 6:14 PM


Do you remember the joke about the old lady taking a Rorshach test who sees some kind of sex act in every ink blot? When the psycholgist comments on this, she indignantly replies "Well, you're the one showing me these dirty pictures".

I'm feeling kind of bad about my earlier snarky comment. Seriously. You guys are just so cluelessly predictable. This time, instead of the quick rationalization, why don't you see if you can come up with any other reasons Thompson would pen this essay. Props if you can avoid Democrat talking points.