We here at Abnormal Use try to steer clear of politics. In today’s landscape, political topics are polarizing and incite far, far too much animosity. For a legal blog whose writers’ views span the political spectrum, such topics are ones we would just assume avoid. Nonetheless, upon reading a recent from Mother Jones chastising a former lawyer, turned presidential candidate, based on his former clients, we felt it is time to break our silence (just this once).
In the article, writer David Corn attempts to expose Senator Ted Cruz as a “well-paid private attorney who helped corporations found guilty of wrongdoing.” Specifically, Corn states:
[Cruz] was a lawyer for Kraft in a major lawsuit against Starbucks. He represented Pfizer when a California county accused the drug manufacturer and other pharmaceutical firms of overcharging. (In a win for Big Pharma, the Supreme Court tossed out the case.) He defended Eagle Freight Systems when drivers sued the company seeking unpaid overtime wages and expenses. (Cruz lost a bid to uphold a lower court ruling that shut down the drivers’ suit. Two years later, when Cruz was no longer involved in the case, the trucking company prevailed.) In a controversial move, he represented a Pennsylvania developer who was a central player in a corruption scandal that exploited juveniles, handling a dispute this crooked developer had with his insurance company.
As an apparent representative sample of Cruz’s more “egregious” acts, Corn details two other cases in which Cruz served as appellate counsel (one of which was on-brief only). First, in , Cruz wrote an appellate brief for a Chinese manufacturer hit with a $26 million verdict in a copyright infringement case. Second, in , Cruz handled an appeal of a verdict against a company accused of wrongfully terminating the plaintiff for refusing to violate anti-kickback laws. So, what is the point of all this? Essentially, to call Cruz a hypocrite. As Corn writes:
Cruz, a tea party favorite who calls himself a “courageous conservative,” has railed against “crony capitalism” and decried “corporate welfare.” He has boasted that he authored “legislation to end federal dollars subsidizing corporate fat cats.” Yet as a private legal gun for hire—who billed at least $695 per hour—Cruz sometimes defended corporations that engaged in sleazy practices to screw the little guy or gal.
Again, we must ask what is the point?
If one wants to write a negative piece on Ted Cruz, feel free to criticize his position on immigration, marriage equality, foreign policy, or any other viewpoint with which you might disagree. If you want to accuse Cruz of being a hypocrite, point out that he while simultaneously opposing the law. Associating Cruz with his former clients or his work as an attorney, however, should have nothing to do with it.
As attorneys, we all have a job to do – advocate for our clients. Whether it is civil or criminal, plaintiff or defendant, an attorney’s job is to counsel and to look out for the well-being of his or her clients. As a former lawyer, Cruz was simply doing the job he was hired to do in the best way he could to protect his client’s interests. There is no reason to chastise him for it. People and businesses deserve to have attorneys to help navigate them through the legal system.
The fundamental flaw in Corn’s logic lies within his premise itself, that being that Cruz is a “well-paid private attorney who helped corporations found guilty of wrongdoing.” In the two cases specifically cited by Corn, Cruz stepped in as appellate counsel following an unfavorable result for the client at the trial level. Apparently unbeknownst to Corn, the legal process does not necessarily end at the trial stage (nor do civil cases result in corporations being found “guilty”), but, rather, can continue on with the right to appeal. When Cruz stepped in to “help” these corporations with their appeals, he did so on the grounds that the verdicts were somehow reached in error. While the corporation may have been found liable at the trial stage, it did not necessarily mean that the judgment would stand on appeal. Of course, Corn would apparently have us ignore this whole process and essentially put appellate lawyers out of work.
The point of all of this is that lawyers are not their clients. Lawyers aid their clients in reaching a resolution to legal disputes. While lawyers can, and often do, turn down cases for a variety of reasons, lawyers shouldn’t be criticized for doing their job in the cases that they do decide to take. With any political candidate, there is plenty to criticize without the necessity of reviewing every legal brief he or she wrote in her pre-political career.