Friday, March 9, 2007

Conflicting Views of Alleged 'Double Life'

Charles Rust-Tierney, a former president of the Virginia ACLU charged with viewing child pornography, was also a public defender. Peter Krauthamer, the deputy director of the D.C. Public Defender Service, said that Rust-Tierney will be allowed to resume work if he is released but will be downgraded to paralegal status.

However, in my opinion, "downgraded to paralegal status" sounds like Krauthamer does not respect the high ethical standards paralegals hold themselves to, and Rust-Tierney should not be "downgraded." The man was viewing child pornography, and if convicted, should be spending time in jail, not "downgraded to paralegal status."

Thoughts, anyone? Anyone else insulted and worried that people like Krauthamer are trying to turn the profession into something for unethical lawyer-types?

Edited to add: If he is innocent, by all means, he should go back to doing his regular job. My outrage stems from Krauthamer's casual use of the phrase, "downgraded to paralegal status." It's an insult to the profession. Either fire him or "downgrade" him to an administrative position, but leave the paralegals out of it.


  1. Where do I begin?! I am outraged personally and for the profession in general. Where can I write to this guy and give him a piece of my "expertise"? Everyone should be letting this guy know that we not only don't appreciate that statement, but that his team is the last within which we would want to work. Thanks.

  2. Lyza,

    A simple Google search for his name yielded this information:
    Avis Buchanan is the Director and Peter Krauthamer is the Deputy Director.
    The main office is located at 633 Indiana Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C.

    We should all let him know what we think about his uncouth comment!


  3. I'm sorry, but as Paralegals, you -- as much as anyone -- should understand and support our legal system. Mr. Rust-Tierney has NOT been convicted of a crime. That he would find employment and socially constructive activity if released on bond pending trial helps to diminish any claims that he would be a flight risk. That he has children and appears to be a devoted father, and many acquaintences who have seen him with children who vouch that he has never shown any indications of inappropriate behavior toward any child is evidence that he poses no immediate danger to the community.

    How, as paralegals, can you sit there and advocate PUNATIVE detention and denial of work PRIOR to conviction by a jury of peers? You come off as simply vindictive vigilantes. Do you not respect the procedures, safeguards and protections built into our system?


  4. Hi, Anonymous.

    The outrage here stems from the use of the phrase "downgraded to paralegal status." Leave the paralegals out of it -- I'm sick of disbarred/suspended/unethical attorneys trying to work as paralegals. Paralegals are professionals, too. I mean, come on, how often do you see a doctor with his license to practice medicine revoked become a nurse?!

  5. Christine,

    I can appreciate your reaction. For me, however, as important is thinking of the clients' interests. R-T's clients are mentally ill in-mates in the DC corrections system. He's a public defender (or was). Its not as though there are lots of lawyers or paralegals who are going to step in and provide the sorely needed services that R-T has provided. I suspect the "downgrade" to paralegal status is suggtested solely to protect the legal interests of the mentally ill clients. Given the charges agains R-T it might not be in their interest to have him do the actual filings, but someone has to do the grunt work and paperwork, and another overburdened attorney in the Public Defender's office can do the final filings. Why not let him continue to contribute to society until and unless he CONVICTED of a crime? If he can do that as a "paralegal" how is that a black eye to your profession?


  6. Anonymous,

    The point is, he shouldn't be a "paralegal." That title should not be used in conjunction with him, if he is convicted. My beef is with Krauthamer for using that phrase.

    I'm sick of seeing disbarred/suspended/unethical attorneys trying to work as "paralegals," as if the profession is somehow second-class. Being a paralegal can be just as challenging and important as being an attorney. We're not second-class employees, and I resent the implication by Krauthamer that we are.

  7. Christine,

    I do unederstand your priority in this is to advocate for the professionalism of paralegals and I have no argument with that. That's what professional groups do. They fight for autonomy, for the right to define and control membership, and for the power to define the specialized knowledge-base and qualifications that are certified by professional membership. But there is one other aspect of established professions that I wanted to emphasize.

    Professions at their best and most socially important have a pubic service committment over and above their committment to their own membership (although how well they live up to that committment is another matter). Doctors have the Hippocatic Oath, engineers have stadards (of building safety, etc) that supercede the financial interests of clients, lawyers have responsibility to the law, etc.) I hope and expect that the paralegal profession also has and continues to develop a committment to serving the public interest as well as its own membership and employers.

    My first reaction to your blast against the head of the DC Public Defenders office was simply a sense that, like everyone else, you seemed willing to jump to conculsions about how bad a person R-T is and to be willing to deny his innocent and very needy clients the services he can and is willing to provide, absent any conviction in court.

    I don't know how the office he works in is structured and what pay grades and job titles are available. I suspect that only attorneys can actually file with the court, and that paralegals cannot. Office adminstrators may be techically limited and not allowed to do certain things that paralegals can. I don't care what R-T is called. I just hope that the clients won't suffer to protect the professional sensibilities of you and your fellows.

    Thank you for opening my eyes to your legitimate concerns and reactions.



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