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Remember the legendary fellow who killed his parents and asked for mercy because he was an orphan? His spirit is alive and thriving in a California inmate named Johnny King. King was charged with four counts of battery, which became five counts at his arraignment after he head-butted his first court-appointed attorney and had to be restrained. Attorney No. 2 bailed after King promised him he would get out of his car one day and find a hit man waiting for him. Attorney No. 3 said he really didn’t think he was in any danger, but King’s threats were starting to eat away at his professional objectivity. The last straw for attorney No. 4 came when King grabbed him by the jacket, dragged him close and promised to crush his head. A trial court hearing determined that by his misconduct, King had effectively waived his right to counsel. King objected on due process grounds, noting he hadn’t been effectively represented (attorney No. 4 by that point was testifying for the prosecution). The appeals court agreed. In an April opinion, it ordered the trial court to give King another hearing on whether he had effectively forfeited counsel-this time with an attorney. King v. Sacramento Co. “After you accept your diploma and make your way out into the world, I urge you to live by your oath and show compassion for those you meet along the trail.” “What makes America such a strong country-able to weather the most difficult of crises-is not our weapons of war or our dazzling technologies or even our incredible wealth. We are strong and resilient most of all because we are a nation that governs itself by laws.” “Use your skills acquired here to help provide both the perception and the reality of equal justice under law.” “I’m asking you to help change a certain law firm culture, a certain professional culture, that leads us away from what I think is the more traditional culture in our profession-namely a tradition of public service.” “You’ll have to make some hard decisions that will hurt the people who you love, but you’ve got to be prepared to do that.” “Some of you will choose to be trial lawyers who fight for the voiceless, the powerless, the oppressed, and for the American dream of justice for all.” “Each of you has the opportunity to be a hero.” (Sources: U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez at the Stetson University College of Law commencement; Senator Chris Dodd at Quinnipiac University School of Law; Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at George Washington University Law School; Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer at University of Pennsylvania Law School; former Attorney General Janet Reno at Suffolk University Law School; Mary Alexander, American Trial Lawyers Association president, at Santa Clara University School of Law; Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at University of Georgia School of Law.) Law firms that find a way to identify with our troops-is that the Iwo Jima flag-raising on Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld’s home page?-may well pick up some useful gilt by association. The June 1 issue of American Enterprise carries the results of a Harris Interactive poll that asked how much confidence respondents have in the people who run various American institutions. First place, with 62% expressing confidence, went to the American military. Dead last, as in 14th out of 14, were law firms, with a 12% confidence rating. At least the U.S. Supreme Court ranked third, well ahead of organized religion and television news.

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