FINAL JUDGMENT: My Life as a Soviet Defense Attorney by Dina Kaminskaya

FINAL JUDGMENT: My Life as a Soviet Defense Attorney

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Soviet attorney Kaminskaya, now living abroad, first achieved notoriety as the advocate--or defense attorney--for famed dissident Vladimir Bukovsky. She continued to defend dissidents until her expulsion from the USSR in 1977. But she wasn't thrown out for her lawyering: the government wanted to get rid of her husband, attorney Konstantine Simis, because of a book he had in manuscript (published here in 1982 as USSR: The Corrupt Society). Like her husband's exposÉ, Kaminskaya's revelations are shocking only if the Soviet legal system is held to strict account. Thus, it's not surprising to discover that judges, who are all party people, are under extreme pressure to issue rulings in conformity with party policies. What Kaminskaya does offer that Simis didn't is fresh information. We learn that Soviet advocates, organized into collegial bodies within towns or regions, are paid on a fee-for-service basis by the people they represent, and that, though the fees are small (a two-day trial may net the attorney $25), a hard-working advocate can make more than other professionals. But the advocate has to take too many cases to adequately defend people against the much better prepared prosecutors. This, a lament of Kaminskaya's, is also the experience of American legal services attorneys, however. Similarly, the one case Kaminskaya describes at great length--involving two boys accused of the rape and murder of a young girlfriend--resembles notorious miscarriages of justice in other countries. The story is one of shoddy investigation, shoddy prosecution, public clamor for revenge, and the complicity of prior defense attorneys in a frame-up. After three trials, the last at the highest appeal level, the boys were freed for insufficient evidence. It is not a political case, and the author's intention in relating it is not at all clear. The Bukovsky trial was simple by comparison, with the defendant using his day in court as a public forum, and his attorney vainly arguing that the demonstration he was accusing of organizing was legal. In the other dissident cases, the outcome was also predetermined. Interesting for the depiction of procedures, then, but less so when it gets down to cases.

Pub Date: March 16th, 1983
Publisher: Simon & Schuster