First the South Carolina Bar Association and now the American Bar Association is criticizing a Republican Governors Association ad that targets state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor in South Carolina, for his work as a criminal defense attorney.
In a letter to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who is chairman of the Republican Governors Association, the lawyers group argues that the ad, which attacks Sheheen for representing violent criminals, sends the wrong message about defense attorneys. Sheheen is challenging Republican Gov. Nikki Haley. The ABA stops short of asking Christie to pull the ad.
"The ABA, which has almost 400,000 members, does not endorse political candidates, and I am not writing in support of or against any candidate in this race," American Bar Association James R. Silkenat wrote in the letter released Friday. "However, as leader of the nation’s largest lawyers’ organization, I am writing to express that the message the ad sends is wrong in the context of the American system of justice, and it must be rejected.
"A fundamental tenet of America’s justice system and Constitution is that anyone who faces loss of liberty has a right to legal counsel. Lawyers have an ethical obligation to uphold that principle and provide zealous representation to people who otherwise would stand alone against the power and resources of the government — even to those accused or convicted of terrible crimes."
In the ad, a narrator said Sheheen "defended violent criminals who abused women."
"Vincent Sheheen protects criminals, not us," the narrator in the ad concluded.
In response to the earlier complaint from the South Carolina Bar, RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said the ad doesn't target defense lawyers, it targets Sheheen.
Read the letter here.
Watch the ad below: