If every lawyer refuses to represent a client

Let’s say that every lawyer in America and the whole world decided to boycott and refuse to represent a particular American defendant in U.S. criminal court. Farfetched hypothetical, but let’s not fight it. Maybe he’s a serial killer, or terrorist, but nobody wants to defend him in court. Even public defenders refuse, despite their professional obligation.
Since the Constitution says the defendant has the right to an attorney, does this mean the trial is stuck in permanent limbo and can’t proceed? Or will the trial just cite “extraordinary circumstances” or something of that sort, and go ahead without a defending lawyer?

The court would order a lawyer to represent him. Lawyers can be forced to take on clients in some situations. Here’s the first hit I found doing a search on this type of thing - http://www.floridabar.org/DIVCOM/JN/jnnews01.nsf/cb53c80c8fabd49d85256b5900678f6c/247e82a4a24e694f852574fa00576583!OpenDocument&Highlight=0,*

I suppose all lawyers in a court’s jurisdiction could still refuse after being ordered to represent someone and face charges of their own - not sure how that type of conflict would be resolved.

Those lawyers would go to jail for contempt. Eventually, all the lawyers in the la d would end up behind bars - a good start!

Now, judges are also lawyers who’ve passed the bar, correct? (Is that just an almost-always or a hard requirement?)

If every other lawyer was in contempt, would a judge be able to ‘step down’ from the bench to represent a client? (Assuming that there are enough judges for one to do this and another to try the case without conflict of interest.)

Come to think of it, in general, can a judge try a case in someone else’s court as counsel without needing to step down from the bench in their own court?

I suppose the only way it could happen would be if all the lawyers could claim a conflict of interest - maybe he sent every single lawyer a death threat - in which case the defendant would have to wait until some new lawyers were called to the Bar.

OTOH ‘the whole world’ was specified. Some countries don’t have the legal niceties that we take for granted and would have no problem taking action if he were extradited.

Not a requirement as far as I know. Common but not universal, especially where judges are elected.

English law (which is similar but not identical to US law) has this very concept covered under the Cab-rank rule. The idea is that the lawyer can’t refuse a paying customer under certain circumstances. It also provides an out for the lawyer so that they can provide the services and also claim socially that they were forced to do it and shouldn’t be considered as a terrorist-coddler or somesuch.

In a free market model of legal services (which isn’t quite what we have), the system would naturally resolve itself as the potential benefits of representing this defendant increase without bound (e.g. defendant is now so desperate for legal counsel that they will pay 10 times a typical rate). As that amount goes up and up, eventually someone will bite. If nobody does so soon, eventually the fee will rise above the cost of attending law school and opportunistic entrepreneurs will realize that they can pay $X to go to law school but get $5X in return from their first customer. So someone will do it. If nobody in the country bites, there will be an immigrant along the way shortly, willing to pay the cost of uprooting themselves and/or lobbying for a change to immigration law to get themselves in. If still nobody bites, people will start intentionally having more children knowing that if they raise the kid who accepts the case, the family will become billionaires.

Yeah, I dragged that out to an absurd level. But that’s the basic idea of market forces. You can buy anything that can theoretically exist. The question is, how much will it cost?

Speaking of which, is there a dictionary word for the public-perception syndrome of “defending a client in court means you support their conduct?”

No, unless the defendant is Bill Gates. If he’s some random shmoe, he won’t be able to pay more than he has. He might even find in his best interest to not be willing to pay much, providing he’s free pending trial and his prospects aren’t good.

“Free market” rules don’t apply when there’s only one buyer, anyway. It’s a monopsony.

May not be the correct term, but many people would describe such an attorney as complicit.

Isn’t “Court Appointed” the same as “the Judge ordered it”? Besides, Doug Wambaugh would take the case.

I think pretty much yes, but “Court Appointed” implies that the judge actually had jurisdiction to order it. If a judge just up and orders random people to do the hokey pokey, they don’t become court appointed officials.

There is a system of public defenders which are paid state employees who are provided to indigent defendants. There is also the concept of a private attorney being appointed to serve as council in similar circumstances in jurisdictions that don’t have public defenders. And there may be a mix of the two in some places.

Since the defendant was unable to find adaqeute representation with his own capital, the court would step in and attempt to purchase a lawyer, or at least that’s the impression I got from robert_columbia’s post.

This is pedantic, but a free market is one without any government coercion or force. Its not necessary efficient, and a monopsonistic market is not necessary unfree.

A similar question; what if they couldn’t seat a jury due to the notoriety of the defendant and the crime? Assume everyone in the world heard of the event and saw film of the defendant doing the terrible act on the news. Same problem?

That’s not quite what’s happening in that case, though. The judge is ordering that attorney to continue representing a client which he voluntarily took on from the public defender’s office, even though the case wound up being really complicated and the state isn’t paying enough to cover his expenses.

The situation where a judge orders a lawyer to keep representing a client even after he runs out of money isn’t all that uncommon, and you occasionally hear of situations where a judge may order a lawyer to represent an old client in a different matter. But I’ve never heard of a situation where the judge just pulls a lawyer’s name out of a hat and orders them to defend someone. I guess they might be able to do that if they needed to, but I don’t think it ever really happens in practice. In the case of places where the public defender job is done by private attorneys, those are still attorneys who volunteered to be on a rotating list and who get paid some token (sometimes very token) amount to work the cases. Even then, I think they’re usually free to turn down the cases beforehand, they just may not be able to drop them once started.

Lawyers tend not to care who they piss off. Many lawyers volunteered to defend Eichmann, he eventually choose a German national who was well respected and no nut. This man gained no social standing by doing so. The principle of a competent and spirited representation is very important to most lawyers.

That’s not a problem over here in the U.K.

Sometimes a change in venue might solve the issue. And, as I understand it, both the defense and prosecutor are allowed a fixed number of juror candidates they can disqualify.