Lawyers, Taxis and Anwar
Writer: Lord Bobo
Published: Fri, 13 Jan 2012
I have a question that’s been puzzling me for a long time. Do lawyers really believe in their client’s innocence? If they don’t, will they refuse to take on a case, or is it their duty to defend anyone, whether or not they think they are innocent or guilty? Jimmy Liew, via email
Why Jimmy! If lawyers only took cases where they believed in their client’s cause, what work would the judge (or in more civilised systems, the jury) have to do?
The lawyer is much like a taxi cab, lining up and taking on any passenger to wherever he or she wants to go, provided the passenger pays the fare. In law school, lawyers learn of the “cab rank rule” that sets out this basic principal of legal practice. Similarly, a lawyer is obliged to represent any client who seeks his services, provided of course that is in the lawyer’s area of practice and the client is willing to pay the lawyer’s fee.
To understand legal practice and the “cab rank rule”, you must set aside your idea of “cab ranks” based on what you see in KL – this principle wouldn’t work where cab drivers refuse to go a certain route because of bad traffic, or charge based on an illegal, off-meter basis. Hang on, perhaps that’s not too far off what some Malaysian lawyers get up to.
As Rumpole of the Bailey explains it to his “Queer Customer” pupil master who seems to have forgotten in “Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders (by Sir John Mortimer QC, Penguin, 2005)”:
“And you honestly believe he’s innocent?”
“What I believe is immaterial, you know that at least. It’s not for me to make a judgment, it’s up to the jury.”
Here was I, an inexperienced white wig, telling my Heads of Chambers the basic rules of a barrister’s life.
“It’s my job to put the case as well as possible. He says he didn’t kill his father or Tail End Charlie. I’ve got to show that it’s at least possible that he didn’t murder anyone.”
A lawyer cannot act for a person if he knows and is told by the client that the client is guilty. A lawyer cannot knowingly put forward in Court a false case. But it is not for the lawyer to believe or disbelieve his or her client. The lawyer is meant to speak for the client since the client cannot speak for himself.
The lawyer’s belief is suspended.
Lord Bobo, what are your views on the Free Anwar 901 rally? Serial Walker, via email
There has been some active discussion amongst LoyarBurokkers, Lord Bobo’s most loyal minions, on the validity of the 901 rally.
First of all, Lord Bobo wants to be very clear that the freedom to assemble peacefully is a constitutional right that cannot, or should not, be taken away. However, the agenda of the 901 rally, which seemed unclear at certain points of time, could be argued to be attempting to influence the judiciary, and pressuring the court into acquitting Anwar Ibrahim.
This is an example of where, although one may not agree with the underlying cause or message, we can still speak up for and uphold the person’s rights. It was unfortunate that the 901 rally was tarnished by some morons who brought out their meriam buluh many many months too early, but overall the attendees and the authorities deserve praise for showing that peaceful assembly is possible.
Anwar is a free man. What’s your reaction to the verdict? Krispy Kreme, via email
There have been many doubts and inconsistencies in the case against Anwar, both in terms of the truth of the allegations, as well as whether the proper procedure and rules of natural justice were followed. In essence, many argued that Anwar was, for many reasons, not given a fair trial.
Did he, or didn’t he? Could he really be that silly after the last case? Did that important person really meet the alleged victim? How does someone hold it in for days on end like that? Did he really have a romantic relationship with a member of the prosecution team?
With the decision, it is hoped that this long-running saga is firmly behind us. Lord Bobo now waits to see what the next “political scandal” will be, for there surely will be quite a number written in the stars for 2012.