Briefing Room


David H. Bodiker Lecture on Criminal Justice to focus on reasons for defending

October 6, 2011 | Events

“How can you defend those people?”

It’s a question all criminal defense lawyers are asked at some point – and one to which Abbe Smith replies, “How can you not defend those people?”

Smith, professor of law at Georgetown University and director of the Criminal Defense and Prisoner Advocacy Clinic, is the featured speaker for the David H. Bodiker Lecture on Criminal Justice on Nov. 10.

The lecture was established at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in February 2008 to honor the spirit, dedication, and passion of the late David H. Bodiker ’63. Bodiker served as Ohio Public Defender from 1994 to 2007 and was relentless in his advocacy for the rights of Death Row inmates.

The lecture, which is open to the public, aims to promote, improve, and advance the highest level of academic and professional interest in protecting the constitutional rights of defendants in the criminal justice system.

That theme likely will loom large in Smith’s talk.

While society tends to be sympathetic – encouraging even – of a lawyer’s defense of the innocent, people tend to have greater concern about defending the guilty, or those who are a threat to a community. Why would anyone devote a career to advocate for them?

Smith writes that she will dispense with the stock answers, “that our Constitution requires effective assistance of counsel in criminal cases; the proper functioning of our adversary system requires able lawyers on both sides; criminal defenders serve as important ‘screens’ to make sure the government gets it right.”

Instead, she will delve into her own motivations for defending the guilty.

Smith is on the board of directors of the Bronx Defenders and the National Juvenile Defender Center, and she was a trial attorney with the Defender Association of Philadelphia from 1982 to 1990. She is actively involved in criminal law practice still, and she frequently presents at public defender and legal aid training programs.

The lecture will take place at noon, Nov. 10 in the William B. Saxbe Law Auditorium in Drinko Hall, at 55 W. 12th Ave., Columbus, OH, 43210. Lunch will be provided for attendees. An RSVP is needed by Nov. 1.

To register, contact Chris Marcum at or (614) 688-8232.