Attorney Sidebar: Clarence Darrow on Fighting Power, Injustice and Oppression

~ Clarence Darrow

When Clarence Darrow was tried for subornation of perjury, he told jury in his own defense —

I have committed one crime… Which cannot be forgiven. I have stood for the weak and the poor. I have stood for [those] who toil.… I have lived my life, and I fought my battles, not against the weak and the poor – anybody can do that – but against power, against injustice, against oppression.…

~ Clarence Darrow, Attorney for the Damned, pages 496-497.


Recent events now remind us now more than ever of the critical role played by juries, lawyers, and the right to a jury trial.  Not only their criticality in affording justice for every person who is equal before the law, but their place in our Constitutional government.  The judiciary is a separate and equal branch of our government.  It is no less important than the other two branches.  The judiciary is not just the appellate judges in robes handing out opinions from on high, but includes the judges toiling day to day in our court administering the rule of law faithfully, dispassionately, and fairly.

Trial judges do this  not just with opinions and rulings from the bench, but in their roles at jury trials as one of the three legs that hold up the separate but equal branch of our government — the Constitutional Right to a trial by jury.  The other two legs of a jury trial are the trial lawyers’  and the individual jurors who make up the jury.  Their roles are  a reminder all of us of the protections required and afforded to ALL of our citizens in keeping liberty and freedom secure.  Not just criminal and civil defendants.  When justice is afforded to an individual defendant in the exercise of their right to a jury trial, we ALL benefit from those blessing of liberty and freedom from injustices.

The Sixth Amendment:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury ….

The Seventh Amendment:

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

And the right to a jury trial is composed of three key players:

  • Judge
  • Jury/jurors
  • Lawyers

Without these three supporting foundations, then our protections against an overreaching law enforcement agency (eg., FBI), denials of equal justice and rights, government oppression or passage of laws violating our Constitution would be vastly different.

So, all of us should protect their independence, their role and and their place in a free society.  This is not just me, it’s the law.  Constitutional Law.

Postscript on special prosecutors.

Some argue that the Founding Fathers committed a misstep by placing the criminal investigator powers of the federal government in the executive branch.  I disagree.  The other two branches are not well-suited, and a check and balance was provided against the executive/President via impeachment and removal if necessary.  Also the Fourth Estate (a free and honest press, not the entertainment arm of the cable news channels but an investigator press that ferrets out the facts and reports on these facts, and of course I would prefer facts and not anonymous sources) should provide a check.

Thus, there are two enigmatic situations that have developed:

First, we should all be thankful about the press and media breaking of stories of potential corruption, biased investigation for/or against citizens, and Fourth Amendment violations and crimes.  It is too soon to tell, but the risk of ignoring and sweeping under the rug is a recipe for chaos and disaster.

Second, the special prosecutor should not be investigating anything associated with the president. I say this because the risk of the FBI crossing the political lines and being used as a usurpation of Congressional authority and their role in impeachment and removal of the president is disingenuous and also violates the Constitution.  The President is the executive. He can remove any person appointed in the executive department for any reason.  POTUS nominates, supervises, and removes those whose nominations have been approved by the Senate (and those not requiring Senate approval).

Any investigation into the Presidency by any government entity is an abuse of power and irresponsible.  The House can investigate, bring a bill of impeachment, and if passed, it goes to the Senate for the removal decision.