Opinion: Judicial blackmail

POSTED: 06/16/11 1:34 PM

The words hung heavy in the air in the court room yesterday morning: judicial blackmail. This is how prosecutor Bart den Hartigh labeled attorney Brenda Brooks’ decision to drop a client on the spot after the court denied her request to hear said client’s mentally afflicted son about an incriminating statement he had made to police against his mom.
Brooks hardly took a split second to announce her decision, saying there was nothing more she could do for the defendant if she was not allowed to have the son interviewed one more time.
The prosecutor did not need a lot of contemplation either. While Brooks sat down in the public tribune he said that her behavior was unprofessional and that he would file a complaint against her with the Dean of the Bar Association.
We understood later that judicial blackmail is not in the penal code, so Brooks does not have to fear repercussions from that angle. Maybe Bert Hofman, the Dean of the Bar Association, will give her the proverbial slap on the wrist, or say something like, “Don’t do this again, Brenda.”
On the other hand, considering the circumstances of the case, Hofman may very well conclude that Brooks did what’s right and name her attorney of the year on an appropriate occasion.
Given the fact that lawyers organize themselves in a Bar Association and that the client apparently was blind drunk when she showered a guy with drain cleaner, speeches during the awards ceremony offer plenty of opportunities for legal humor.
But we wonder about the judicial blackmail thingy. We always thought that blackmail was a threat against somebody or something whereby the blackmailer has leverage (say, for instance, steamy pictures of the President of our Parliament).
But Brooks had nothing like that up her sleeve; even better: she had nothing up her sleeve.
She simply stated that, since the court had denied her request to re-interview her client’s son, there was nothing she could do anymore for her and that this was her reason to desist. Brooks did not say (we guess she wouldn’t even think about it) something like: look here judge, if you’re not granting this request something really bad is going to happen to you. Give me what I want or else.
The judge had already taken her decision and Brooks knew darn well that she would not come back on it. So here, in Today’s court of public opinion, we declare Brooks not guilty of judicial blackmail and of any other kind of blackmail for that matter.
Whether her behavior was unprofessional or not, that’s a matter we gladly leave to the Bar Association’s judgment.


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