OP, I have included a link to an excellent article about the matter. It clearly outlines the "cab rank" rule, which the general public seem to have no idea about, and also the way lawyers contribute to upholding the rule of law, and why they are duty bound to still represent the unpopular.
Several lawyers made the point that when lawyers fail to stand between the most undesirable clients and the power of the state the entire system is at risk. As one public defender said: ‘We can’t import into the system a subjective value judgement about which case is more worthy than another, who is more deserving. If this happens, the system — and our entire society, really — cannot be said to represent justice.’
Another leading barrister said: ‘It is simply essential to the system that everyone, no matter how unpopular, gets a defence.’
Many lawyers who represent unpopular clients believe that the very legitimacy of the legal system is reflected in how it treats the worst. As one prominent barrister stated:
The quality of the system is tested by how it treats the worst. … The worst, most revolting criminal or terrorist or whoever it happens to be, if you can get a fair trial for them then everyone else is guaranteed a good run. But if the system starts taking short cuts because somebody is so bad, then it’s the system that’s coming apart.
A legal aid lawyer who has also been in the private Bar made the same point, but with self-deprecating humour: http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp...uery=cab%20rank
Why represent clients that others loath? Sometimes I think it comes from my deeply indecisive nature. I don’t know whether someone is guilty or not. In 99 per cent of cases they say they are not guilty. As a lawyer, I say okay, that’s the system; you’re entitled to put this case. It’s all the more important when you have a deeply unpopular client. It’s more important to get the jury to put aside their prejudices. We don’t know things. That’s why we have a system designed not to find out the truth but to find out whether the Crown has proved its case.
Another prominent lawyer made a similar point about lawyers ‘knowing’ that their clients are guilty:
People say you know. But everyone who has done any amount of trial work has had the mortifying experience of thinking you know what’s true and you find out that what the client has told you is true, and you were bloody wrong about your assumed knowledge of his guilt. … [This experience] makes it easier to suspend judgment. We have a system. The jury decides. I don’t.
One criminal defence lawyer agreed, noting that ‘first impressions can be totally wrong.’
He told a story about a client who had been accused of rape. With a wry warm-heartedness common to criminal lawyers, he described his client as an ‘idiot’ who ‘looked like a rapist’ with his ‘big bulging eyes’ and who acted like one with his ‘secretive’ and ‘strange’ manner. The complainant, on the other hand, was ‘compelling.’ When she testified at the committal hearing, she was ‘brave and snivelling’ as she offered up the awful details of the crime. She was later exposed as a liar by a purportedly corroborating witness — her soon-to-be former boyfriend. The complainant’s plan had been to extort money from the accused, but the boyfriend began to fear that he would be accused next.
I highly recommend this interesting article on austlii, for understanding the basics.
And here is a short smh article about one aspect of the subject.http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/att...1101-17agv.html
Edited by SarahM72, 01 December 2012 - 09:28 AM.