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Veteran Marin public defender exits after 36 years
Marin Independent Journal - 8/12/2017
Aug. 12--With his gaunt, stern, even brooding image, Chief Deputy Public Defender David Brown has been one of the more distinctive characters at the Marin County courthouse for decades. Yet his intense appearance belies a disarming modesty and a soft spot for society's downtrodden.
"I hate bullies," he once said.
Brown, who became a Marin public defender in 1981 after earning a bachelor's degree at Cornell and a law degree at Stanford, retired from the office on Friday. The 63-year-old San Rafael resident, one of the few Marin defense attorneys with the requisite qualifications to handle capital cases, plans to pursue a private practice.
Q Why did you choose criminal defense as opposed to another area of law?
A Since I was a youngster, I always identified with and rooted for the underdog. And, my mother always told me, "David, you should be a lawyer because you argue about everything." For me, criminal law is the most exciting and gratifying type of law.
Q Who's harder to represent, an innocent person who's likely to be convicted, or a guilty person who's likely to get off?
A Having a client whom you believe to be completely innocent always puts additional pressure on a lawyer. Hopefully, the lawyer representing such a client will pull out all the stops to ensure that no injustice occurs. As Thomas Jefferson said, "Better 100 guilty men go free than one innocent man be condemned."
Q Is the rule of law stronger now then when you started your career, or weaker?
A In California, the pendulum has swung from the liberal Rose Bird (she's one of my heroes) court to harsher penalties such as three strikes, and then back to recent legalization of marijuana, reducing some felonies to misdemeanors, and other reforms. California is OK. Nationally, I believe that the Trump administration is engaged in an all-out assault on the rule of law.
Q Given student debt loads and the job market, would you recommend a law career to undergraduates?
A If making money is your No. 1 priority, choose a tech career. If you have a real passion for an issue or area of the law, go for it!
Q What's more important, verbal adroitness or strategic cunning?
A Both are important. Articulate arguments are obviously most effective. But courtroom strategy is critical to an effective defense. You have to be able to visualize and explain to your clients how the case will play out in court.
Q If you could overturn one Supreme Court decision, what would it be?
A Citizens United v. FEC. This case opened the door for corporations and special interests to buy elections. I favor a system of publicly financed political campaigns.
(c)2017 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)
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