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Opinion: Political ad wrong about defense of criminals

I was stunned by Kelly Loeffler’s latest campaign ad — the ominous music and not-so-subtly-racist mug shots and threatening language meant to evoke fear.   

The voice actor described people being "released from jail" only to "do it again," but the information was wrong. The ad said that Doug Collins was not a true Republican because he stooped so low as to represent criminals in court, and that idea is very wrong. 

I am an elected, Republican, female prosecutor who has practiced law for over 20 years.  I have served on both sides of the courtroom, working in prosecution and defense.  I believe there is honor and meaning and purpose to helping people.  I exercised respect for law enforcement and our judicial system working on both sides.  I upheld my values, served my faith and did good for my community on both sides.  

Our right to a trial, with an attorney to represent us, is a fundamental aspect of our American Constitution and criminal justice system — that men and women of honor have been serving in that capacity since the days of John Adams, over 390 years ago.  Defense attorneys stand in the gap between accusation and conviction, requiring the government to do its job and do it by the law.  Defense attorneys and citizens serving as jurors hold law enforcement, prosecutors, legislators, and yes, even judges, to the limit and requirements of their power.  

Ms. Loeffler's ad was high on drama but short on truth. The mug shots shown were defendants who had court-appointed counsel, but Mr. Collins didn’t represent any of them.  If he had, however, it would have been in the best tradition of the American justice system.  

When an attorney agrees to serve his or her community by taking court-appointed cases, the attorney does not get to select which clients he or she will take.  When agreeing to represent people too poor to afford an attorney, the lawyer cannot say which crimes they will defend.  The attorneys who agree to work for and with the least powerful among us must represent the client and cases as the judge orders.  

The 6th Amendment to our Constitution requires that every person has the assistance of counsel.  Nothing is more American than our criminal justice system.  This system was established so that people of privilege could not simply accuse someone of wrong, go behind closed doors for a trial, and give them no opportunity to defend themselves.  Nothing is more conservative than guarding the rights of individuals against the misuse of government power, whether that is the government entering our homes, taking our property, or limiting our liberties and freedom.  

I am hopeful that Georgians will not allow a slick ad to disparage our system of justice, one of the vital positions in our courtrooms, nor the character of Rep. Doug Collins, who, in my experience, has always upheld the dignity of our justice system. 

Stephanie Woodard 

Hall County solicitor general 

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