The right of every citizen to an attorney during a criminal prosecution is one of America’s most important democratic tenets, protected by the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution.
This holds for even the worst among us. Serial killers Ted Bundy and Charles Manson had attorneys. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh did, too.
This is part of the great American Experiment, and it often results in the vilification of attorneys who professionally defend actual villains.
No one argues that bad guys need lawyers. But when a lawyer spends years representing victims — and then seeks out a famous, wealthy, alleged perpetrator, tells him she’ll use all that knowledge of victim behavior she gleaned while defending them to get him off the hook, smearing and discrediting those accusers in the process — well, that’s another thing altogether.
Lisa Bloom, the feminist civil rights lawyer who, following in her mother Gloria Allred’s footsteps, staked her career on defending female assault victims. Now she is facing calls for her disbarment after an explosive report in a new book detailed her shocking efforts to save Harvey Weinstein’s reputation after rape allegations by actress Rose McGowan.
“I feel equipped to help you against the Roses of the world,” she wrote, “because I have represented so many of them. They start out as impressive, bold women, but the more one presses for evidence, the weaknesses and lies are revealed.” Her plan included online “counter-ops” to “push back and call her out as a pathological liar,” suppressing Weinstein’s negative news stories on Google through ranking manipulation, discrediting and intimidating McGowan, and inventing equality initiatives meant to paint him as a newly reformed supporter of women.
“You should be the hero of your story, not the villain,” she insists to him. “This is very doable.”
Bloom exploited the vulnerabilities of her own clients, female victims of sexual assault and harassment, in order to make a good amount of money trying to rehabilitate a notorious accused sexual predator.
She has since apologized for her work with Weinstein. But it’s unclear what she’s sorry for. In her latest attempt, she insists she’s learned from her “colossal mistake,” while plugging her law firm as one of the “largest victims’ rights firms in the country.”
She seems to truly believe that this one transgression should be mitigated by the fact that she’s represented far more victims than perpetrators. “I judge others not by their one worst mistake, but by their lifetime of work,” she writes.
But that’s actually what makes it so much worse: that someone who’s presented herself as a champion of women and assault survivors has simultaneously sold them all out so quickly and eagerly.
Bloom’s naked willingness to trade on her unique knowledge and insight of the pain and suffering of women victims isn’t merely a blemish on her record. It isn’t just a lapse in judgment. It’s a betrayal, and one that unfortunately could have a considerable chilling effect on future “Roses of the world.”
If even a famed defender of assault victims is willing to discredit accusers to protect the powerful, who can they actually trust?