Being born and bred in New York City and having a wild adolescence during the 1960s caused me to always be suspicious of the government and cherish freedom and civil rights. While attending Brooklyn Law School, it became crystal clear that the only areas of law that inspired me were criminal and constitutional law. Protecting the rights of the accused and especially trying their cases is the greatest gig imaginable. So many individuals are either unjustly accused or are unfairly prosecuted for minor transgressions that certainly do not merit criminal conviction or incarceration.
In my view, humans should not be caged unless they are a danger to others. We all know the incarceration statistics for marijuana offenders. Most folks would agree that drug offenders do not warrant incarceration but need treatment.
Another example of government prosecution/persecution is in the arena of public lewdness cases. Public lewdness nowadays is code for two adults privately (or with other like-minded people watching) having some fun in the sand dunes or in a remote park or lover's lane setting. We recently tried one of these cases in the Southern District of New York. The defendant was a retired New York City police detective who was approached and entrapped by a young, undercover park policeman in the Gateway National Recreation Area beach in Brooklyn in the dunes. Our client was acquitted after trial in Federal Court by Mag. Judge Ramon Reyes.
After three decades of representing the accused in the bowels of the criminal courts, I was retained to fight a historical civil rights case currently pending in the D.C. Court of Appeals. Lt. Dan Choi chained himself to the White House several times in 2010 to protest DADT. Dan Choi's acts of civil disobedience and the government's overreaction thereto can be graphically seen here:
The U.S. v Choi case is the pinnacle and launching pad for our expanded struggle to fight for the rights of the criminally accused. With great honor we accepted Dan's invitation to act as lead counsel in this case when we met in Fire Island last summer. After hearing about his struggles in exposing the government's hypocrisy vis-à-vis DADT, we posited that his struggle was one step involved in the larger struggle of achieving "suspect classification," thereby triggering "heightened scrutiny" for LGBT individuals under hornbook constitutional law notions. Our belief that one individual can change the destiny of the world is ripening because of our work with Dan.
Some clients serve as teachers. Dan has served as a veritable institution of higher learning. He has taught us true tenacity and a never-give-up spirit by his tireless example of getting arrested again and again for what he knows is right. He has been a primer on dealing with the media, social and otherwise. And most of all, he has taught us that true love of self and others is the most important value of all.
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