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Grisanti merits praise for representing client

The New York State Defenders Association supports Sen. Mark Grisanti as he faces complaints for representing a client arrested as part of a drug raid in Buffalo.

Even those criticizing Grisanti’s representation of a person accused of a crime acknowledge that everyone has a right to counsel. Apparently they think “someone else” should provide that representation. We say to Grisanti’s constituents – be grateful to have an elected official who does the right, but unpopular thing.

Grisanti’s actions emulate those of one of our Founding Fathers, John Adams, who became our second president. In 1770, Adams agreed to defend the British soldiers on trial for the Boston Massacre; other lawyers had declined. Adams later reflected that doing this was “one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.”

Our Constitution provides rights to individuals accused of breaking the law because the Founders had seen the dangerousness of a lawless government. Skilled defense lawyers help ensure that the government prosecuting their clients does not overreach. Grisanti’s duties to his clients do not conflict with his duties to his constituents; if anything, his actions help them as well. By protecting their own clients, defense lawyers protect us all.

As then-President of the New York State District Attorneys Association Richard A. Brown said in 1998: “To ensure a fair criminal justice system that has the confidence of the public, it is essential that the system be able to attract defense attorneys of the highest caliber. Our system works best when able counsel on both sides zealously pursue the ends of justice.”

Attacking Grisanti for being a criminal defense lawyer is misguided at best. His constituents should be proud of him. And anyone using this issue to politically undermine him should realize that an attack on his role as defense counsel is really an attack on our justice system.

Jonathan E. Gradess

Executive Director, New York

State Defenders Association