Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Why Not a Crowd-Funding Site Specifically for Legal Defense Funds?


At the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Rainey Reitman and Jillian C. York point out:


While it’s understandable that, in the wake of the Capitol Hill riot, people are grasping for ways to limit the spread of right-wing extremism, the demand that companies prevent individuals from raising funds for a legal defense is deeply troubling. Our adversarial judicial system is built on the idea that people -- even guilty people -- should have access to a fair trial with adequate representation. In a criminal case, that ideal is often elusive, with the government having nigh unlimited resources, especially for a high profile case, while most defendants have few resources at all. 
Demanding that companies deny individuals the ability to effectively raise funds for a defense attorney tilts the playing field from the start. People would be outraged if, for instance, protesters detained during last summer’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations were de-platformed by fundraising sites.


It seems to me that there's an opportunity here -- perhaps for some association of defense attorneys or a  civil liberties organization with a brief for defending defendants' rights to due process, representation, etc. -- to  create a crowd-funding site that's:

  1. Committed to (and legally bound to) raise funds that, once aggregated, go directly to a defendant's attorney's "Interest on Lawyer Trust Account," so that the funds can't be diverted to other purposes/uses; and
  2. Committed to non-discrimination between defendants on principle.
Would that shut up the "people I don't like shouldn't be able to raise funds to get lawyers because they might use the money to have swastika flags made instead" crowd? Of course not. But it would eliminate even the slightest hint of any validity to their case. And it would give defendants access to legal defense crowd-funding that wouldn't get yanked just because a mob howled about it.


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