This month, defense attorney Drew Justice faced a rather bizarre motion from Assistant District Attorney Tammy Rettig in Tennessee. Rettig was upset that Justice was referring to the prosecution as “the government” — a common description used by both counsel (including prosecutors) as well as judges. Rettig moved for Justice to be ordered not to be call her the government. Justice responded to this clearly absurd and frivolous motion with a request of his own: He asked to be called “Captain Justice” “Guardian of the Realm.”
Rettig filed her motion to correct what she considered a derogatory term: “The State has noticed in the past few years that it has become commonplace during trials for attorneys for defendants, and especially Mr. Justice, to refer to State’s attorneys as ‘the Government.’ The State believes that such a reference is used in a derogatory way and is meant to make the State’s attorney seem oppressive and to inflame the jury.” So it appears “the State” is fine but “the government” is derogatory? I am not sure how long Rettig has been practicing but it really has not been “the past few years.” Prosecutors have been referred to as “the government” since before Marbury v. Madison.
Justice pointed out the obvious to the court but then suggested a compromise: rather than being called “lawyer” or “defense attorney” he would prefer “‘Defender of the Innocent’ . . . or would also accept the designation ‘Guardian of the Realm.’” He also indicated that he would accept “Captain Justice.”
He ended with aplomb: “WHEREFORE, Captain Justice, Guardian of the Realm and Leader of the Resistance, primarily asks that the Court deny the State’s motion, as lacking legal basis.”
What is curious is that, when Rettig did not respond to inquiries, Williamson County District Attorney Kim Helper (right) responded. Helper did not immediately chastise her subordinate for a frivolous and rather juvenile filing. Instead she seemed to defend the motion and criticized Captain Justice: “We’re a little disappointed at the response that talked about ‘Captain Justice, Defender of the Realm.’ From my perspective, it seemed a little bit — I don’t know what the right word would be. The response did not appear to be in good faith.”
First of all, Ms. Helper, it is Captain Justice, Guardian of the Realm, not Defender of the Realm. You are confusing his alternative title as “Defender of the Innocent.” Geez.
Second, if the response did not seem in good faith, you may want to look at the original motion and the standards of your office in filing frivolous papers with the court. I know what the “right word” would be for the motion: “meritless” followed by “ridiculous.”
The court threw out the motion and Captain Justice is back at work defending the innocent against the minions of the government.
Well done, Captain Justice, and Godspeed.