In the midst of the initial euphoria of agreeing to write a regular column for the Law Tribune, all excitement was immediately drained when the editor informed me that the first piece would have to be an introductory one. It is a bit awkward introducing myself when I’ve been writing a column of sorts about Connecticut criminal law for eight-odd years now. For those of you who are regular (or even sometime) readers of the blog, I don’t need to tell you who I am or why I write. This is for the rest of you.
My “name” is Gideon and I am most certainly a public defender. I’ve been practicing as a public defender for longer than I care to admit and in the process of representing individuals, I’ve picked up a few opinions on the criminal justice system: the way it is, the way it’s going and the way it should be. On my blog, I write to express my opinions on criminal law in Connecticut and beyond and the posts there are a collection of explanations of court opinions, discussions of legal principles and analysis and commentary on stories du jour and laments on the state of indigent defense in this country. I expect that this column will be a bit of all that.
Call me a “true believer,” if you will. I wear that badge with pride. While some may use that as an epithet, to me and others like me it signifies an unyielding commitment to a set of principles and beliefs: that we should always advocate for my clients, for individual rights and for the rule of lenity; that the criminal justice system should always lean toward protecting individuals and our collective rights and shed the cloak of fear, sensationalism and extreme knee-jerkism it has donned in recent decades and that I am proud to be the voice for those that are so easy to shun and vilify. Crime is simple; criminal justice is complicated and it is that that I hope to convey through these columns and on my blog.
I suppose this would be a good time to clarify a few things: first of which is that anything I write is my opinion and my opinion only. I do not pretend to speak for the Office of the Chief Public Defender nor should you interpret anything I say to imply that I do. In fact, on several topics the agency’s position may differ from mine. Second, I write frequently about “prosecutors” and “judges” and “clients.” Understand that these are generalities. I never write about specific prosecutors and judges without naming them and I never write about clients, ever. I am also quite aware of the fact that we, here in Connecticut, have it far better than most of the rest of the country and most of the judges and prosecutors we (and I) encounter are all hardworking, diligent, honest and good people. The rest of the country isn’t nearly the same. Third, despite what I may say in my writing—emphatically or otherwise—I am cognizant of the fact that I don’t know everything and am, from time to time, wrong about things. In other words, your mileage may vary.
The most frequent question I have gotten since 2005, and the one that you are undoubtedly thinking to yourself now, is why a pseudonym. There is a 2005 answer to that question and a 2014 answer to that question. The 2005 me would have said that it was done mostly out of self-preservation without knowing how supervisors and bosses would react and how judges and prosecutors might view my zealous advocacy and strong opinions. I always felt it was safer for me and for my clients to adopt the name of the man whose efforts gave birth to my existence. The 2014 answer is that “Gideon” is the part that has resisted becoming jaded and cynical after years of practice. “Gideon” is the unabashed idealist who reminds me, despite myself, of why I chose to be a public defender and keeps renewing my faith in the importance of the principles enshrined in the Constitution. He is my beacon of light in a system that can be dark and overwhelming.
But I think both versions would have this to say in common: that the name is but a distraction. Engage with my words, question my opinions, and disprove my assertions based on what I write, not on what name you think I should have. If you’ve skipped to the end, I can assure you that you haven’t missed much. I can only say that I will try to be more interesting next time.•