Misconduct complaint on AG ad

October 31, 2008
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With all the political ads showing on TV right now, it’s easy for us to tune them out. But one recent ad from the camp of Republican candidate for Attorney General Greg Zoeller has upset one Indianapolis criminal defense attorney so much that he’s reporting the ad to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.

Attorney Bob Hammerle recently sent Indiana Lawyer a letter to the editor about the ad that attacks Democratic AG nominee Linda Pence for her past service as a criminal defense attorney. For those who haven’t seen the ad, or perhaps tuned it out, the language in the ad seems to try to impact negatively upon Pence’s character because she’s represented criminals. I couldn’t find the ad online, either on Zoeller’s Web site or on YouTube.

We received the letter after our deadline for the issue prior to the election, but we decided to publish excerpts here because Hammerle brings up some interesting points:

“… To listen to Mr. Zoeller’s pernicious ads, one would conclude that there is something dishonorable in representing a person accused of a criminal act. Even worse, Mr. Zoeller blatantly suggests that a criminal defense lawyer is somehow personally tainted by the accusations made against his or her client. That is as absurd as it is preposterous, and again I am certain that Mr. Zoeller fully knows it,” wrote Hammerle.

“…Years ago when I began my own practice as a criminal defense attorney, the late Judge Andrew Jacobs Sr. hired me as a public defender. In doing so, he told me that despite the fact that I will frequently be meeting human beings who have done contemptible things, that I was to represent each one as if they were my best paying client. He reminded me that in doing so, everyone’s right to liberty is enhanced.”

“…In pandering to public misperceptions about his own profession, Mr. Zoeller unintentionally calls into question his own competence to serve as the leading lawyer of this State.”

Speaking with Hammerle this afternoon about the ad, he said he’s brought the ad to the attention of the Disciplinary Commission, citing Rules 8.3(a) and 8.4(d) of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct. Hammerle said he’s upset that an ad endorsing one attorney – especially if the ad was approved by Zoeller – would openly denigrate another attorney. He said it’s not about political parties but disrespect from one attorney toward another.

Hammerle’s letter hits on an important point that the general public may not consider when it comes to accused criminals – they have the right to an attorney, whether they can pay for it themselves or tax dollars have to be used for public defenders. The ad endorsing Zoeller makes it seem like Pence, or criminal defense attorneys in general, are just as bad as the people they are defending. Being a criminal defense attorney may not be the most revered or positively viewed profession by the general public, but it’s a needed one.
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