Holding Lawyers Accountable for Public Safety

Video: To watch "the memo" click here.

Hi, I'm Bill O'Reilly.  Thank you for watching us tonight.

We'll get to that stunning decision overturning the jury verdict in the dog mauling case in a moment, but first the "Talking Points" memo, holding lawyers accountable for the public safety.

Today attorneys for John Lindh Walker said to a court that the former Taliban fighter was, quote, "a gentle, sweet youth and a loyal American."  Lawyers for accused shoe bomber Richard Reid have asked for the security plans of various U.S. airports in order to defend their client.

Attorneys for Zacarias Moussaoui seemed to have few problems with his public statements supporting the attacks on 9/11 and other anti-American diatribes.  And the attorney for Jose Padilla wants him released from military custody immediately unless the government makes the evidence against him public.  Of course, by doing that the lives of informants and their families could be in danger.

It is my contention that attorneys have the right not to represent people they find, quote, "morally repugnant," unquote.  And last Friday, I chastised one of Moussaoui's court-appointed lawyers for not knowing that.  Early today, counselor Edward MacMahon replied, e-mailing us, "Sir, there is no such statute, and you cannot provide citation.  So admit that you are wrong and your viewers have been misled."

In support of Mr. MacMahon, James Gayle Garner, an attorney and former Army colonel writes from El Paso, Texas, "Bill, when a federal judge appoints you to defend someone, no matter how repugnant, you follow the order of that judge.  Now, be a big enough man to apologize to Mr. MacMahon."

Well, sorry, colonel, and sorry, counselor, but here's the no spin truth on this.  According to the American Bar Association rules of professional conduct, which have been enacted by the states, an attorney can decline to represent a client.  Citing rule 1.16, number 3, I want to be very precise, quote, "A lawyer can decline or terminate representation if the client insists upon pursuing an objective that the lawyer considers repugnant or imprudent."

Surely it is repugnant and dangerous to the public when Moussaoui stated that killing American civilians is acceptable.  Surely it is repugnant and dangerous to the public when the shoe bomber wants to neutralize all airport security measures in his defense.  Surely it is repugnant and dangerous to the public when Padilla's lawyer wants the government to burn its sources or release an accused terrorist.

Now, it is true that a judge can decline an attorney's request to withdraw from the case, but before a trial begins, that's almost unheard-of for a judge to do, because that would ensure an appeal.  No defense can be vigorous if the lawyer doesn't want the case.

So the truth is that American lawyers can pick and choose whom they want to represent, and if their tactics put the public in jeopardy, as these cases do, those lawyers are responsible.  Remember, a defensive lawyer's primary obligation is to see that his client gets a fair trial and that his case is put forth responsibly.

Endangering national security is not responsible, and lawyers that do that should be heavily criticized.  You can hide behind the Constitution all day long, but endangering the lives of Americans is a crime in itself, no matter what venue you may be in.

And that's The Memo.  We'll have more on the debate a bit later on.

The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

Time now for the "Most Ridiculous Item of the Day." 

Pamela Anderson is becoming a magazine columnist.  Wait, there's more.  Miss Anderson will pen a column for Jane magazine on subjects such as health, domestic abuse, and parenthood.  Since Ms. Anderson has Hepatitis C, was knocked around by ex-husband Tommy Lee, and is involved in a very nasty child custody battle, perhaps she will have something interesting to say.  So it may be too early to say it's ridiculous.

— You can watch Bill O'Reilly's Talking Points and "Most Ridiculous Item" weeknights at 8 & 11p.m. ET on the Fox News Channel. Send your comments to: oreilly@foxnews.com