Why Do I Do What I Do?

Stephen G. Johnson

One of the most common questions I get from people when they learn that I am professionally a criminal defense attorney is “how can you represent THOSE kind of people?” And, usually, I will ask who they mean by “THOSE kind of people.” “Well, you know,…criminals,” is the usual response.  And then I will ask them “well, when do you believe THOSE people become criminals?” This usually stumps them, and I get an ignorant and helpless look from them, as if they have been surprised with a pop civics quiz. “They only become criminals after they have been convicted or plead guilty. Up to that point, they are innocent until proven guilty” is what I remind them. And then comes the civics lesson that they did not ask for.

Why do I represent THOSE kind of people? Because I LOVE my civil rights. This is nothing more than an extension of the Golden Rule—“do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Treat other people the way you want to be treated. I love my rights against unreasonable and illegal searches and seizures, my rights to remain silent and not incriminate myself, my rights to confront my accusers, my rights to basic due process before my freedom can be taken from me…I love my rights under Constitutions of both the United States and the State of Washington.  The State (both federal and local) is a behemoth and leviathan of immeasurable power and resources that can easily crush the individual. In addition, I simply hate bullies, and the government can be one of the biggest bullies of all. And if I am willing to fight for the protections of my own personal rights, then I am morally obligated to fight for those same rights of my immediate loved ones, my extended family, my dear friends, and You, my fellow citizen. That is why I am a criminal defense lawyer.

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