Cullen Post is a crusader. Righteous in his pursuit of innocence. Yet again John Grisham has created a memorable lawyer. He dominates The Guardians.
Post is not the swashbuckling Sebastian Rudd of Rogue Lawyer charging into conflicts ready, even eager, to push the boundaries of ethical behaviour in pursuing justice for his clients. Instead, Post is a boldly cautions lawyer. He is fearless in advocacy but not eager for publicity. At the same time he occasionally acts unethically justifying his actions on the same basis as Rudd. I cannot support either lawyer breaking the rules. Resorting to unethical actions because police and prosecutors engage in comparable behavior erodes the Rule of Law so painfully built over centuries.
I admire Post’s meticulous approach. With other Guardians he reviews all of the evidence. They talk to everyone. They retain credible experts. They conduct multiple interviews with the convicted.
Post works for Guardian Ministries. Its founder, Vicki Gourley, “a devout Christian who considers her work to be derived straight from the Gospels. Jesus said to remember the prisoners. She doesn’t spend much time hanging around jails but she works fifteen hours a day trying to free the innocent”.
He is a monk in a suit. He has taken a vow of poverty by choosing to work for a non-profit devoted to freely the wrongly convicted.
His clients are limited to those who are innocent of the murder for which they were convicted.
I know of no real life secular saints with law degrees. Post is fascinating for he is an ordained Episcopalian minister as well as a lawyer. He is a man who combines religious conviction with a zealous dedication to proving innocence. And he must prove innocence. When dealing with the cases of those convicted and whose appeals have been lost it is not enough to prove the case was weak. Those issues have been rejected. To show wrongful conviction he must effectively prove his clients could not have committed the crime or find the real killer.
Post makes me feel uncomfortable. He is a purist in rejecting representation of the guilty. It makes legal life easier to refuse to represent the justly damned. While representing all accused as a young lawyer Post had a nervous breakdown. He could no longer stand representing the guilty. He could not fight trials seeking acquittals for those who were guilty of crimes. He left the profession for several years and became a minister.
Post’s choice of a career fighting for the wrongfully convicted means a simple life with neither spouse nor family and sparse friends. He has willingly surrendered material comforts to seek the holy grail of justice.
While I admire his purity of intent I reject any effort to canonize him.
For those of us who represent all those charged with criminal offences we recognize many clients are justly charged. We accept the responsibility of representing everyone.
Criminal lawyers spend a significant majority of their time dealing with sentences as most clients plead guilty to some or even all of the charge facing them.
I believe sentencing guidelines should have a sufficient range to reflect the distinctions in the nature of crimes committed and the circumstances of those convicted.
In Canada the courts, when sentencing indigenous clients, can be requested to consider the Gladue factors.
S. 718 of the Criminal Code provides:
(e) all available sanctions, other than imprisonment, that are reasonable in the circumstances and consistent with the harm done to victims or to the community should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of Aborignial offenders.
An article from the Native Women’s Association sets out what needs to be considered in a Galdue report:
These reports contain recommendations to the court about what an appropriate sentence might be, and include information about the Aboriginal persons’ background such as: history regarding residential schools, child welfare removal, physical or sexual abuse, underlying developmentatl or health issues, such as FASD, anxiety, or substance abuse.
Achieving a just sentence is as meaningful as a dramatic acquittal but I doubt there will ever be legal fiction where the theme is sentencing. There is tension in sentencing. I once represented a teenager whose driving misconduct caused the death of a passenger who was a friend. What should be his punishment was a difficult question that affected many lives.
While less dramatic as a character I wish Post combined representation of the wrongfully convicted with representation of the rightfully convicted.
Grisham, John – (2000) - The Brethren; (2001) - A Painted House; (2002) - The Summons; (2003) - The King of Torts; (2004) - The Last Juror; (2005) - The Runaway Jury; (2005) - The Broker; (2008) - The Appeal; (2009) - The Associate; (2011) - The Confession; (2011) - The Litigators; (2012) - "G" is for John Grisham - Part I and Part II; (2013) - The Racketeer; (2013) - Grisham's Lawyers; (2013) - Analyzing Grisham's Lawyers; (2013) - Sycamore Row; (2014) - Gray Mountain and Gray Mountain and Real Life Legal Aid; (2015) - Rogue Lawyer and Sebastian Rudd; (2016) - The Whistler; (2017) - Camino Island; (2017) - The Rooster Bar and Law Students and Integrity; (2019) - The Reckoning;