Pittsburgh Attorney Promises In Ad To “Think Like A Criminal” And Return Felons To Lives Of Crime

article-0-1C1E230600000578-419_634x471We have previously discussed the growing number of legal advertisements that degrade the profession with cheap pitches that would make a used car salesperson blush. That latest example (below) is from Pittsburgh attorney Daniel Muessig. The advertisement is clearly tongue-in-cheek but in the end I find it less than comical. Muessig promises to help felons get back to crime and proclaims that he “think like a criminal.” It fulfills the worst stereotypes of criminal defense lawyers as felons are shown committing crimes and saying “Thanks, Dan.” Muessig may have a skill for thinking like a criminal but he clearly has yet to master the talent of thinking like a lawyer.

The video below shows a big banner disclaiming the depiction of crimes as purely fictitious. This is due to the Pennsylvania bar rule that states “An advertisement or public communication shall not contain a portrayal of a client by a non-client; the re-enactment of any events or scenes; or, pictures or persons, which are not actual or authentic, without a disclosure that such depiction is a dramatization.”

Muessig, 31, just received his JD from the University of Pittsburgh Law School in 2012. He either was given no training on the professional demeanor and self-discipline or, more likely, blew off those classes.

Pennsylvania is one of the states that has abandoned efforts to police the propriety of advertisements and has seen a race to the bottom in such commercials. The comments to the rules state:

Questions of effectiveness and taste in advertising are matters of speculation and subjective judgment. Some jurisdictions have had extensive prohibitions against television and other forms of advertising, against advertising going beyond specified facts about a lawyer, or against ‘‘undignified’’ advertising. Television, the Internet, and other forms of electronic communication are now among the most powerful media for getting information to the public, particularly persons of low and moderate income; prohibiting television, Internet, and other forms of electronic advertising, therefore, would impede the flow of information about legal services to many sectors of the public. Limiting the information that may be advertised has a similar effect and assumes that the bar can accurately forecast the kind of information that the public would regard as relevant.

Muessig, 32, is clearly using humor but it does not help the profession to have a lawyer parading on television saying: “Consequences. They sure suck, don’t they? America was built on freedom, not on a bunch of people with more money than you telling you what you can and can’t do with all their stupid laws. Laws are arbitrary.” He assures the viewers “Trust me, I may have a law degree, but I think like a criminal. Street knowledge.”

article-0-1C1E22DE00000578-114_634x431While the advertisement is not as creepy and self-aggrandizing as the one for Jamie Casino in the Superbowl, it seems to fulfill a Stephen Colbert fantasy for Muessig. Muessig and Casino are the very reason why bar members have fought to keep regulation of advertisements. There remain a certain percentage of lawyers without any sense of professionalism or discipline who think little of the impact of their conduct on the bar. The problem is that such regulations raise difficult free speech questions and highly subjective judgments.

Muessig insists that “[u]ltimately my goal is the highest aim of the bar, which is to help people. I understand that the way I did it is unconventional, but I have helped a lot of people in the brief amount of time I have been a criminal defense attorney.” I cannot speak for his motivation but his means is hardly the “highest.” He seeks clients by treating criminal defendants as habitual criminals, criminal defense lawyers as heartless profiteers, and the law as a vicious joke on victims. That is quite an accomplishment for a “brief amount of time” as a lawyer. It is an inauspicious start for a lawyer and must be an embarrassment to the Pittsburgh law school. This is the type of thing that would be funny as a law school gag but as an advertisement the humor fades with the degrading image of lawyers.

We have recently seen a criminal defense attorney is being opposed in a Senate confirmation hearing because he represented a notorious criminal. In my work as a criminal defense attorney for over two decades, I have seen many talented lawyers becoming prosecutors or civil litigators to avoid the backlash of representing accused criminals. Muessig fuels that image with this advertisement and undermines better lawyers who are doing serious — and often unpopular — work. With only one year as a lawyer, that is a rather ignoble distinction for Mr. Muessig.

13 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Attorney Promises In Ad To “Think Like A Criminal” And Return Felons To Lives Of Crime”

  1. “I think like a criminal”

    Not exactly someone I would like to business with. Does thinking like a criminal mean he walks you over to the “accounts receivable” department in the basement and introduces you to the two guys wearing black suits and white ties; the “collection” agents?

  2. What if Attorney Meussig had a dream while in law school that he only remembers unconsciously, and the dream was about how and why it is not people who violate the adversarial rule of law and why it is the adversarial nature of adversarial law and jurisprudence which, as biological fact, as though violates people?

    In my collections of personal encounters with the supposed social construction of reality, it came to me one day to attempt to consult an attorney of law about a particular legal problem I have often encountered.

    I am formally diagnosed as being autistic. From the medical records of my primary care physician at the North Shore Clinic of Ministry Door County Medical Center, in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, a verbatim quote: “Autism. High functioning.”

    As an autistic person who was severely abused in public school settings because of being autistic and somewhere (two-spirit?) within the gender-diversity spectrum of humanity, I have developed an intense aversion to being abused because of aspects of my life that I find to be biologically determined and outside my locus of practicable choice.

    In consequence of said aversion, I seek to live my life in such a way as to never be in violation of any law, and, thereby, never truthfully be subject to forfeits as consequences of my having been in violation of law.

    Supposing, because of the ignorance intrinsic to my being autistic, I have garnered an immense plethora of acta reus, and never had one whit of any mens rea, and I come before the bar amidst folks who cannot fathom profound autism and its social-interaction consequences? Methinks that the only adversary I will ever be actually able to encounter is the underlying social philosophy of adversarial law and jurisprudence.

    Were I to make an innocent, autism-based blunder and be confronted by a neurotypical law enforcement process, absent some attorney in Wisconsin whose sense of reality resembles the pseudo-humorous Dramatization of Attorney Meussig, methinks that I have identically integer zero standing as a valid person in law.

    I continue to await the actual demonstration of any actually-avoidable event of any sort whatsoever which was not actually avoided. In the somewhat more than seventy four years I have already lived, I have never observed one whit of an iota of a phantasm of any actually-avoidable event which was not actually avoided, nor one whit of an iota of a phantasm of any actually-not-avoidable event which was actually avoided.

    Hypothetical models of impossible forms of existential reality simply do not actually exist, countless millenia of socially-confabulated-misunderstandings of tangibly objective reality notwithstanding.

    Living in a world culture in which an apparent plurality of folks, through social construction (or concoction?) of imagined reality, have come to regard deception as pragmatic truthfulness and actual truthfulness as deception, has been, for me, an astonishing experience of escalating sorrow and grief.

    Enough attorneys legalistically akin to Attorney Meussig, and we may yet learn to elude the entrapment of law in the functional form of humanity’s adversary?

  3. Well… Issa may be in congress…. But he still thinks like a criminal…..

  4. He gets an ‘A’ for creativity. This is the result of too many law school graduates and not enough clients but should fit quite nicely between segments of “The Jerry Springer Show”. Or perhaps he should just park a mobile RV-based office outside the studio.

  5. So . . . at the end, is he implying that Jewish criminal defense lawyers are more effective? Is there a perception among those most likely to be criminal defendants in Pittsburgh that it’s better to have a Jewish lawyer?

  6. I most certainly hope he can prove he is Jewish because I am sure the Jewish community is NOT AMUSED! If he cannot he will be facing a civil suit and he will learn all about defamation. I think that if he is a member of a temple, he will be answering as Hebrew National says, to a HIGHER POWER!

  7. Why people hate lawyers…this fool shouldn’t be practicing law. He has no judgement.

  8. The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.” – Albert Einstein

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