For those following the trial of former Senator John Edwards in North Carolina, the lead prosecutor on the case, David V. Harbach, II, was an Assistant Harris County District Attorney not many years ago and a very good one at that.
Anyone who worked with or against David will remember him as a reserved, intelligent, ethical lawyer and gentleman. David went to Duke University for undergrad and Harvard Law School. In the years between, he was an officer in the United States Navy. After graduating from law school, he worked at the late Houston firm Mayor, Day, Caldwell & Keeton L.L.P, which later merged with Andrews & Kurth. Halbach left what was probably a much more lucrative position at the firm to enter public service.
Although in my few professional dealings with him I respected David for his thoroughness, integrity, and dilligence, it was during an evening train conversation en route to a Texans-Packers game in 2004, that I began to appreciate his sincerity and humility, and be wary of it. Lawyers who are confident without being arrogant, mean what they say, know what they are doing, and do the right thing - even when it's not easy - win a lot of respect, and thereby a lot of rulings from judges and verdicts from juries. Read Gerry Spence if you don't believe me.
As the late Vince Foster told University of Arkansas law students in in a commencement speech in May, 1993,
The reputation you develop for intellectual and ethical integrity will be your greatest asset or your worst enemy. You will be judged by your judgment. ... [d]ents to the reputation in the legal profession are irreparable...[t]here is no victory, no advantage, no fee, no favor, which is worth even a blemish on your reputation for intellect and integrity.
John Edwards no longer has a reputation to lose.
If the publicly reported facts about the allegations against John Edwards are presented to the jury, his defense lawyers have their work cut out for them. But this may be even more so if the contrast between the lawyer prosecuting the case and the lawyer on trial becomes apparrent to the jurors.
The jury acquitted Edwards on one count and failed to reach a verdict on the others. Many legal scholars and pundits around the country were skeptical of the prosecution from the beginning because of the novelty of the legal theories involved and the difficulty in proving that Edwards knew that the actions were illegal. Edwards remarked after the trial that "God's not through with me yet." Maybe, but maybe not in the way he or any of us think either.
It's always been remarkable to me as a criminal defense lawyer that the people of this country - who often think that their government gets nothing right - expect their Courts to always get things right, and that when the results don't match their desires or expectations, justice has somehow been denied. I believe that justice often occurs outside of courtrooms and too rarely within it (No, I am not refering to or endorsing vigilantism) and that broken human beings are not always the best recognizing or dispensing it.
John Edwards, who has been publicly tarred and feathered in the court of public opinion for his misdeeds and spent vast sums of money on his defense, may only be subject to the verdict of the Almighty for his misdeeds- as may we all for our own. That's good enough for me.