Volume 93, Issue 80
Thursday, March 2, 2000
Greenspan pays visit to campus
WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE IDENTIFY THE WEALTHIEST PERSON IN THIS ROOM? WAIT, LET ME HELP. Defence lawyer Eddie Greenspan stopped by campus yesterday to talk about some of the finer points of the law.
By Paul-Mark Rendon
Dispelling the myth that defence lawyers are the scourge of society was high on Eddie Greenspan's list yesterday, when he visited campus to talk to students.
Heralded as Canada's Johnnie Cochrane and the country's highest profile criminal defence lawyer, Greenspan has defended such clients as Garth Drabinsky, founder of the now defunct Livent theatre production company, after he came under fire for alleged fraud charges.
Greenspan spoke to a capacity crowd at Western's law building about the much maligned status of today's defence lawyer and the integral role they play in the legal system.
After mentioning several prominent Canadian leaders who began their careers as lawyers, such as John Diefenbaker, Dalton McGuinty and Frank McKenna, Greenspan made a compelling case to defend the legal profession against modern day stereotypes.
"I don't draw the line at anything. If I defended crime, maybe I would, but I don't defend the crimes. I only defend people and particularly, innocent people because until they're found guilty there are no other kinds of people for me to defend," he said.
"The role of the criminal lawyer is to truly believe and to take at face value the Charter of Rights with deadly seriousness."
The legal system, which he described as somewhat heartless and monolithic, made defence lawyers the best friends of the accused. "Simply put, our job is to believe the accused, or at least not to disbelieve them.
"You may certainly decide not to be a criminal lawyer, but a criminal lawyer who refuses to act for an alleged organized criminal, a corporate accused, a businessman, a neo-nazi, a communist, or for somebody accused of crimes against women, children or the environment, is for me, like a medical doctor who refuses as a matter of principle to treat someone suffering from AIDS," he said.
Ritu Bhasin, a third-year law student and co-organizer of the event, said she viewed Greenspan's visit as an educational experience. "For aspiring lawyers, it's very very important that we hear from some of Canada's most renowned and respected defence attorneys and Mr. Greenspan is definitely one of them."
Mike Rubinoff, president of Western's legal society, said he was impressed with Greenspan's talk and although he had always considered a career in criminal law, he was all the more motivated to move in that direction after hearing Greenspan's words.
"I think it's very inspiring what he said. There are a lot of moral and ethical issues with criminal law and I think the fact he focused on [defence lawyers] defending the individual is definitely the key," said first-year law student Lisa Metselaar. "At where I am in first-year law, it's definitely an issue that I really have to consider."
As his time drew to a close, Greenspan parted with a some advice about taking the profession with a grain of salt. "It's not easy being a criminal lawyer the ethical problems we are confronted with can make you very sick," he said.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000