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Picture this: You're walking up to the courthouse for day one of a highly publicized case, and as you get close, you see protesters surrounding the courthouse steps. But as you get even closer, you see that the protesters are on your side. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a topless protester jumps the barricade and rushes the defendant. Law enforcement tackle and arrest the extreme topless supporter. What do you do?
Although this example may sound fantastic, it actually just happened in the Cosby criminal retrial, and it was an actress and former guest star on the Cosby show that made the mad dash. The ordeal caused quite a commotion, but fortunately, it didn't make any material impact.
Below, you can find three tips to help prevent demonstrations in your favor from hurting your case.
For some attorneys, the temptation may just be too strong to resist shaking hands, kissing babies, and passing out business cards like conference swag as you make your way through the crowd. Apart from the potential ethical issues with in person solicitation and smarminess, this (like most creative attorney advertising) probably isn't a good move.
However, if there was an outburst, or you think the demonstrations might get out of hand, contacting the organizers and asking for help in controlling the crowds could prove helpful. Protip: Social media is your friend here.
If there will be crowds, then there will probably be media, and you might want to have a few statements prepared for different contexts. If the issue is highly divisive, you may want to avoid making any statements at all. However, if you are inclined to make a statement, you must bear in mind that you have a duty to your client, and judges likely wouldn't be too pleased if they hear you're riling up the crowd. Don't just wing it.
While you may have contacted the organizers and issued a prepared statement, it is also important to keep your distance from the demonstrations that happen surrounding cases you are working on. In addition to safety concerns, if jurors see you interacting with protesters outside the courthouse, it could influence their view of you, your reputation, or your case.
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