Ira Sorkin freely admits that it’s his duty as a defense lawyer to “represent people who are hated, despised, disliked,” and of course that is true. Democracy demands that someone defend the loathsome. After all, innocent until proven guilty, right?
But what about Bernard Madoff?
Sure, he’s no Saddam (paging Ramsey Clark) or Slobodan Milosevic (Clark again), but he had already admitted to running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history and drew comparisons to Hitler. So why did Sorkin, who had invested almost $19,000 with Madoff, take on his case?
Madoff’s defense attorney gave the answer to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. Here’s an excerpt:
“I had received a lot of anti-Semitic e-mails, cursing me for being Jewish,” Sorkin said, and quoted one of the worst e-mails he had received that said: “As one Jew to another, I deeply regret that the Sorkin family did not perish in the Nazi death camps.”
Sorkin said he had also received some death threats: “They said I should die.” The lawyer said someone had also used his name to carry out some kind of fraud: “It’s hard to say where they came from. People said they are Jews but I don’t know if they are Jews.”
When asked about his feelings as a Jew representing another Jew who is considered to be one of the worst criminals to hurt the Jewish community, Sorkin said he was used to hearing such claims against him.
“The law says that you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer, and every Jew should be proud of that,” he said, “Fortunately, we live in a country where justice is supposed to be color blind. All citizens are entitled to their civil rights. We serve a very important role in the system. Our ability to protect people who don’t do bad things can only happen if we protect people who do bad things.”
Indeed, the better question is: What respectable defense attorney won’t take Madoff as a client?