Representing Rapists

Legal Services Forum Event

Room 104
Level 1
Melbourne Law School
185 Pelham Street

More Information

This public seminar will be presented by Professor Abbe Smith - Georgetown University, U.S.

In a time of increasing focus on sexual assault—on college campuses, in the military, in prisons and jails, and elsewhere—this article discusses how it actually feels for a lawyer to confront and cross-examine alleged rape victims, knowing or strongly believing that they are telling the truth.  It is one thing to cross-examine a police officer, jailhouse snitch, rival gang member, or phony expert in order to suggest they are lying; it is another to cross-examine a truthful rape or child sex abuse complainant.  Relying on poignantly written “rape memoirs,” as well as her own memorable experiences from practice, the presenter—a woman, feminist, and career indigent criminal defense lawyer—honestly grapples with the defense lawyer’s role in rape cases.  By engaging with the painful and challenging stories of rape victims, the author explores moral conscience at the intersection of sometimes conflicting personal and professional identity.  Interwoven throughout is an argument that there is a “feminist defense ethos”—built on an abiding skepticism of the reflexive use of state power and a deep commitment to individual human dignity—that reduces the tension inherent in rape defense.

Professor Abbe Smith is Director of the Criminal Defense and Prisoner Advocacy Clinic, Co-Director of the E. Barrett Prettyman Fellowship Program, and Professor of Law at Georgetown University. Professor Smith has also taught at the City University New York School of Law, Temple University School of Law, American University Washington College of Law, and the University of Melbourne Law School (Australia), where she was a Senior Fulbright Scholar in 2005-06. Professor Smith teaches and writes on criminal defense, legal ethics, juvenile justice, and clinical legal education. In addition to numerous law journal articles, she is the author of Case of a Lifetime: A Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Story (Palgrave MacMillan, 2008), co-author with Monroe Freedman of Understanding Lawyers’ Ethics (4th ed., Lexis-Nexis, 2010), co-editor with Monroe Freedman of How Can You Represent Those People: Criminal Defense Stories (forthcoming, 2013), co-author with Charles Ogletree, et al. of Beyond the Rodney King Story: An Investigation of Police Conduct In Minority Communities  (Northeastern University Press, 1994), and a contributing author of We Dissent (Michael Avery, ed., NYU Press, 2008) and Law Stories (Gary Bellow & Martha Minow, eds., University of Michigan Press, 1996).