Sadiq Reza


religion, public defender, defense attorney, criminal law, ethics, morals, professional responsibility


This essay argues that the public defender should not undertake, or fail to undertake, any action to the legal detriment of a client on the basis of a conflict the attorney perceives between religious and professional responsibility, except for imminent death or serious bodily harm to another. Having accepted the responsibility of representing indigent criminal defendants, the public defender is duty-bound to not compromise that responsibility for competing religious obligations. This argument rests on four premises: (1) the public defender occupies a unique position in our legal system, and options available to private interest lawyers or other clients should not be available to the public defender; (2) any deviation from the governing professional constraints in representing a client that stems from conflicting religious belief and harms the client is both professional unethical and immoral; (3) religion is at best equivocal in addressing the propriety of specific actions taken or urged on behalf of clients; and (4) the appropriate role of religion in the work of a public defender is that of individual inspiration, or motivation to work to change the professional code or the criminal jutstice system itself.



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