October 29, 2010
any of you think you could be a defense lawyer?” School of Law Dean
Michael Simons asked those gathered Wednesday night for Café de
Paul. “Even if it means defending a murderer?”
During his talk on “Faith and Justice: A lawyer’s reflections on
faith and its place in the pursuit of creating a just community”,
Dean Simons shared how he wrestled with such questions and still
slept at night during his work as a defense attorney; a struggle he
calls “the defense lawyer’s dilemma”.
Participants responded hesitantly to Dean Simons’s questions,
the majority claiming they could not defend guilty criminals as a
defense attorney. A handful of people volunteered for the job for
various reasons; some for the sake of having a paycheck, others for
the preservation of the judicial system, and one other for the
exact reason Dean Simons would later say he could defend the
guilty. “I believe every person is created in the image and
likeness of God,” responded Katrina Curato (Class of ’10, Grad
Class of ‘11).
Although Dean Simons said he was not able to articulate it this
way during his time as a defense lawyer, he now credits his
Catholic faith as having an instrumental role in how he was able to
advocate on the behalf of people who had broken the law and, in
some cases, seriously hurt other people. Like Ms. Curato,
Dean Simons explained his strong belief that all people are
“created in the image and likeness of God,” a key principle in
Catholic Social Teaching. Because of this core belief, Dean
Simons recognizes that each of his clients was a human being with
whom he was able to develop a relationship.
Dean Simons illustrated the importance of relationship-building
when he asked his audience if their answers to his initial question
would change if they knew their client had an autistic child to
care for or had hurt his spouse in the process of forcing her to
hang up the phone instead of allowing her to cancel cancer
treatment that would prolong her life. As
Dean Simons shared these vignettes into the lives of his former
clients, the number of people in the audience who were willing to
defend these people increased. Participants were much more
likely to advocate on the behalf of someone who committed a crime
once they heard the stories of those who were accused.
First-year law student Thomas Greene (Class of ’10, J.D.
Candidate ’13) found Dean Simons’s remarks professionally and
personally relevant. “He was brilliant, interesting, and
personable as he discussed how faith and justice bear upon
society,” stated Mr. Greene, who thinks Dean Simons’s comments
encouraged his audience to start “viewing faith in a different
context from what we are used to."
By seeing into his clients’ lives, getting to know their
families, and hearing their stories, Dean Simons was able to
appreciate the individuality of each person – a lesson that helped
him not only advocate on their behalf, but that served him well
when he moved into the role of prosecutor later in his career.
Café de Paul was held in the Faculty Club on Wednesday, October
20. Sophomore Kevin Leverich (Class of ‘13) set the tone for
the night with a variety of vocal and acoustic guitar music as
participants gathered. Café de Paul, modeled on the popular
Theology on Tap program, brings speakers together with members of
the University community to talk about topics related to faith and
of relevance to their daily lives. The next Café de Paul will
take place on Wednesday, November 17 at 7:30pm in the Faculty Club
featuring Dale Williams, the Executive Director of the Midnight Run
program. All are welcome!
If you would like more information about Café de Paul or have
suggestions for future topics and/or speakers, please contact Erin
Hoffman (email@example.com) in