Message from Shawn Dominy, OACDL President
“How can you do what you do?” All criminal defense lawyers are likely asked this question repeatedly throughout their careers. Many people do not understand defense attorneys play an important role in maintaining our democracy. They instead see our role as using “loopholes” to keep guilty criminals from being punished.
The Framers didn’t see it that way. They came from England at a time when English law did not permit criminal defendants to have counsel unless a judge permitted a defendant to have a lawyer. As judges regularly refused to permit criminal defendants to have counsel, most defendants were unrepresented.
The Framers reacted to this injustice by creating the Sixth Amendment. That Amendment, along with other Amendments, gave the accused the right to a fair trial. The Framers believed the right to a fair trial was a cornerstone of individual freedom: preventing the government from wrongfully charging a person with a crime and obtaining a conviction through an unfair trial. The Framers wisely recognized a trial could not be fair without the assistance of defense counsel. They also recognized criminal defense lawyers are essential as a check on the power of the government.
Although we serve a critical role in our democracy, being criminal defense attorneys is not always easy. We are generally perceived with a dim view by the public, we defend people often presumed guilty in the public eye, and we defend them against a government which has the power, the money, and the resources to prosecute criminal defendants.
That’s why we have an organization like the OACDL to help us improve our capabilities as criminal defense lawyers. The mission of the OACDL is “to instruct and train attorneys through lectures, seminars and publications for the purpose of developing and improving their capabilities” and “to promote the advancement of knowledge of the law as it relates to the protection of the rights of persons accused of criminal conduct”. The OACDL executes that mission by providing top-notch continuing legal education programs.
In addition to presenting outstanding CLE programs, the OACDL provides other valuable membership benefits:
- Listserv: Members with questions benefit from the collective knowledge of approximately 700 lawyers across the state.
- Brief Bank: The ‘members only’ section of this site contains banks of briefs, motions and transcripts, as well as charts and outlines.
- Magazine: The OACDL publishes the only magazine for criminal defense lawyers: the Vindicator.
- Ethics Committee: For members who encounter situations involving professional ethical issues, the Ethics Committee provides sound counsel.
- Strike Force Committee: For defense lawyers subjected to prosecutorial or judicial overreach while appropriately representing a client, the Strike Force Committee provides guidance and representation.
- Public Policy Committee: The OACDL tracks criminal legislation introduced in the Ohio General Assembly, presents testimony to help shape the legislation, and provides weekly legislative reports to the OACDL membership.
- Amicus Briefs: For select criminal cases accepted by the Ohio Supreme Court, the Amicus Committee files briefs as a ‘friend of the court’.
- New Lawyers: The OACDL provides seminars geared toward new lawyers and connects young lawyers with experienced lawyers for mentorship opportunities.
- Senior Lawyers: The Senior Committee hosts meetings and seminars on topics particularly relevant to criminal defense attorneys nearing retirement.
This message and this website are intended for the public and for criminal defense lawyers. For the public, I hope this message has provided new insight which helps you rethink the way in which you view the role of criminal defense lawyers.
For criminal defense lawyers, I hope this message encourages you continually improve your lawyering skills for the benefit of your clients. Vincent Van Goh said, “Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck. Your profession is what you’re put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes a calling.” Our profession is a calling, and the work we do is important. If you represent the accused and are not a member of the OACDL, I urge you to apply for membership.
Shawn R. Dominy