Christine Flowers: A chilling authorized scenario plays out in Pennsylvania | Belief

I am a proud Philadelphia Law firm.  Some persons would smirk at my satisfaction in the title, especially because legal professionals have usually gotten a negative rap in the push, and even a lot more notably because the now archaic time period “Philadelphia Lawyer” has acquired adverse connotations. 

But in advance of it arrived to necessarily mean a shifty, manipulative sort of swindler, calling somebody a “Philadelphia Lawyer” honored her with the assumption that this was a expert of competence, ingenuity and bravery.  I have fulfilled legions of attorneys who in shape that description, all  of them from the Philadelphia spot, and a single of them exceptionally pricey to me, my personal father.

The expression alone can be traced again to Andrew Hamilton, a individual buddy of William Penn, who defended newspaperman John Peter Zenger against rates of seditious libel lodged by the Legal professional Basic of New York.  His crime?  Printing an editorial that criticized the appointment of judges in that condition. Hamilton took the case when other a lot less seasoned attorneys could or would not, and made a then-novel argument: The fact is an absolute defense.  He received his case, and secured a victory for a free of charge press.  The unique brilliance of the outcome is that this was in 1735, a 50 percent-century right before that other Hamilton served formulate the 1st Amendment.

You can have an understanding of, then,  why I’m justifiably happy of getting a Philadelphia Lawyer. You can also understand why I was outraged by what a fellow Pennsylvania Attorney (albeit 1 from the suburbs of Montgomery County) threatened to do the other working day. In accordance to a report from Lehigh Valley Community Media, Josh Shapiro, the commonwealth’s not long ago re-elected Lawyer Basic, advised that he might find sanctions from lawyers who were carrying out their career. The cause that he believed sanctions may possibly be ideal is due to the fact these lawyers were being undertaking their occupation symbolizing Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, and he does not like them quite considerably.  In point, he appears to be as activated by these lawyers as he was by the My Pillow man, Mike Lindell. 

Shapiro tweeted out just one night time last week that a My Pillow business came on even though he was looking at Tv with his small children, and he was horrified.  It was foolish, and not significantly deserving of the chief enforcement officer of William Penn’s happy colony.  But we can excuse silliness in developed adult men.

What we ought to not justification is any try to bully or intimidate people today who are executing their work opportunities, just because we do not like their cause.   I wrote about the criticism that Trump’s authorized team was receiving a few weeks ago when the issues have been clean and there was some possibility of good results.  At the incredibly minimum, there was a respectable basis to suspect irregularities in the voting procedures.  As we have now observed, several of these problems have been dismissed, and most people are resigned to the probability that Joe Biden will be inaugurated in January.  This is not about fraud, or court docket wins, or who will be “president elected” in a thirty day period.

What this is about is an assault on the independence of attorneys, and their ideal to exercise without having sanctions hanging in excess of their heads like a shadow and about their necks like an albatross.  Shapiro, who had issued some inappropriate tweets in the run up to the election, seems to have a pretty really hard time behaving with tact and circumspection.  I suppose that is not shocking if you are the style of fellow who is triggered by the My Pillow man.  But threatening legal professionals with sanction for submitting lawsuits you do not like is not a comical matter.  It is hazardous.

Shapiro has aid. Tom Wilkinson of the Pennsylvania Bar Association mentioned in a radio job interview that if a lawsuit is deemed to contain incorrect allegations “Failing to right [them] could lead to sanctions imposed by the courtroom and prospective willpower imposed by the law firm disciplinary authorities.”

For his part, Shapiro suggested that individuals who defended Trump ought to be held “accountable,” what ever that indicates.

I am properly mindful that numerous individuals, and almost certainly a bulk of Pennsylvania voters want the legal difficulties to conclusion.  It will very likely be a moot issue by the time Joe from Scranton normally takes the oath of business.

But the chilling component of this is not that an election could possibly have been stolen, or that people today will continue to imagine that it was.  The horror motion picture part to this situation is that an Legal professional Basic of the Keystone Point out has even deemed seeking to have lawyers punished simply just for currently being zealous advocates, in the absence of any proof that they have been intentionally engaging in fraud by themselves.

The tiny saving grace is that Andrew Hamilton isn’t about to see it.

Christine Bouquets is an lawyer and a Delaware County resident. Her column appears Sunday and Thursday. E mail her at