Posted November 2, 2013, by Edmund R. Folsom.
Below is a link to a quirky legal story out of Tennessee. It seems defense attorneys down there have been making it a point during trial to refer to the prosecution as “the Government,” or at least one local Assistant D.A. perceives that defense attorneys have been making a point of it. “What’s the big deal?” you might ask. This particular A.D.A. believes the reference is intended to be derogatory– an attempt to make her appear oppressive and to inflame the jury against her– so she filed a motion seeking to have defense counsel barred from referring to her as “the Government.” At the same time, the A.D.A. ironically has no problem referring to herself as “the State” (an anti-federalist nuance, perhaps). The story discloses that Tennessee prosecutors are often formally referred to as “General” in the courtroom, so defense counsel fired back a pleading requesting that the court order the prosecution to refer to him as “Captain Justice,” or “Guardian of the Realm.” This is all pretty silly stuff. Although it would be considered a little over the top for defense counsel to refer to Maine State prosecutors as “the Government,” Maine A.D.A.’s are commonly referred to as “the State,” and are pleased to embrace a vision of themselves as representatives of the people, battling the forces of disorder and chaos in their behalf. In fact, I’ve actually heard defense counsel grouse that it’s unfair that A.D.A.’s get to promote themselves to juries this way, as lawyer’s for the greater good. I’m guessing that in Tennessee the average person takes very little comfort, compared to the average Mainer, in hearing “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
TENNESSEE PROSECUTOR CRIES FOUL AT BEING REFERENCED AS “THE GOVERNMENT.”