Professor Scott E. Sundby, the Sydney and Frances Lewis Professor of Law, recently published his article, The Conundrum of Zealous Representation, 8 Ohio St. J. of Crim. L. ___ (2011), in a forthcoming edition of the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law.
Professor Sundby’s article uses Sharon Davies’s book, Rising Road: A True Tale of Love, Race, and Religion in America, to discuss the ethical line between “zealous” to “overzealous” representation. The book recounts the fascinating tale of a murder that commanded national attention in 1920. Edwin Stephenson, a methodist minister, murders a Catholic priest upon learning that the priest had just married the minister’s 18 year-old daughter to a Catholic man. Adding to the emotional turmoil surrounding the case, the murder and the ensuing trial take place in Birmingham, Alabama during a time when anti-Catholic fervor is sweeping across the South. Stephenson’s defense attorney was Hugo Black, a rising star in the Alabama bar with a personal grudge against the district attorney.
Professor Sundby analyzes Hugo Black’s actions during the trial – especially his willingness to engage in tactics that draw off of the religious and racial overtones of the murder – as a way of thinking about what constitutes “zealous” representation of a client. By looking at how Black conducted the defense – building from vigorous cross-examination on up to a courtroom display that Davies quite rightfully terms “extraordinary” for its inflammatory potential – Prof. Sundby asks the question of whether Black at some point crossed an ethical line from “zealous” to “overzealous” representation.
You can find Prof. Sundby’s article on SSRN here.
Congratulations to Professor Sundby.