By Michael A. Cohen July 04, 2015
As Americans celebrate America’s 239th birthday Saturday, we should pause to thank those who defend and uphold our freedoms every day.
No, I don’t mean the armed forces. They certainly do their part — and their courage and service to the nation is unquestioned. But what about the unsung protectors of freedom? Like, for example, public defenders.
The right to counsel is a fundamental constitutional protection. For those who are arrested and can’t afford a lawyer — as we’ve all heard on countless episodes of “Law & Order’’ — “one will be appointed for you.” More often than not, the lawyer that Americans receive is an underpaid, understaffed defense attorney whose job it is to protect you from the awesome power of the state to take away your liberty. It doesn’t matter if one is guilty or innocent; the right to counsel is sacrosanct and so too is the responsibility of that lawyer to provide the best possible defense. None of this is meant to slight prosecutors, who have the duty of upholding the rule of law, or judges, whose job it is to ensure that the receipt of justice is swift, fair, and without prejudice. But when it comes to defending Americans’ most basic freedom from the state, it’s hard to think of a purer example than public defenders. Continue reading