Original Source: Michael E. Tigar BA JD (Univ. of California, Berkeley), “Defending,” Texas Law Review 74 (1995).
Source: p 196, How Can You Represent Those People? (2013) by Abbe Smith, Monroe Freedman (Editors)

      In telling about stepping into the stream between past and future, I make clear why I part company with those who criticize my representation of this or that person. I owe those detractors no duty of explanation. My private reasonings are mine to share or not as I should wish. [1.] By focusing on some purported obligation of personal justification, these misguided souls are missing the entire point of the journey. I am not trying to set an example. [2.] I am trying to understand how to live my life. Je voudrais apprendre à vivre enfin. [I know that this is a quote from Derrida, but whom I have not read.] [End of 2.]
    I can say I am not trying to set an example. I realize that by making some public expression—for the lawyer as for the artist—one is condemned to signify. Neither the artist nor the advocate can plausibly claim to be tracing figures on the inside walls of his mind, for his own delectation.

Please correct me if my paraphase is wrong: In 1, the author explains that his detractor err in attacking him based on the (perceived) immorality of his clients and the alleged need for a criminal defense lawyer to justify his reasons for defending controversial clients.

In 2, Tigar then rebuts the detractors by clarifying the reason for his defense of controversial clients: his trying to understand how to live my life.

But why is attacking 2 erroneous, because trying to understand how to live life does not defend bad behaviour? Tigar may be genuinely trying to understand how to live life, but his trying may cause grave problems?

1 Answer 1


I do not think his defense can be made with pure logic. The leap from "I am trying to understand how to live my life" to "I owe these detractors no duty of explanation" and, more generally paraphrasing, "they are wrong to detract from me," is not a straight forward logical one.

Many accept the idea that what you do in isolation, without interacting with others, is your own business, but what you do with others is a public concern. I think that might be where he is coming from. However, he chooses to draw the line very sharply, saying "my private thoughts are 100% my own, and nobody can ever touch them" and "my business is 100% a public business, and completely unrelated to my private thoughts." If this was the case, his detractors are obliged to target his business for their complaints, and leave his personal thoughts alone.

If you agree with his assertion about where the line between public and private is drawn and how perfectly sharp it should be, then his argument is a reasonable one, even if he is causing other grave problems. The detractors, by that logic, should be focused on encysting his private business, or exiling it so that he can do no more damage as he continues to bumble along trying to learn to live life. If you disagree, and believe that either the line between public and private is muddier than he makes it seem, or if you believe the line should be drawn elsewhere, his argument becomes extremely suspect very quickly.

  • Sorry, what do you mean by 'enc-cysting' and 'exiling' in your last paragraph?
    – user8572
    Jun 24, 2016 at 3:08
  • I should have used "private" in that sentence. It made no sense with the word "public." The detractors should either encyst his private life, insulating it from hurting others, or exhile it, pushing it far away.
    – Cort Ammon
    Jun 24, 2016 at 3:27
  • I have edited it accordingly
    – Cort Ammon
    Jun 24, 2016 at 3:27

You must log in to answer this question.