The selection of famed trial attorney Alan Dershowitz to deliver the keynote at this year’s Alaska Bar Association annual convention is being criticized by members upset over Dershowitz’s past defense of men like Jeffrey Epstein and O.J. Simpson.
Dershowitz seems an untenable choice in a state that traditionally ranks near the top of states for violence against women, they argue.
But Dershowitz, a retired Harvard University law professor, counters that those who make those claims know nothing of his record.
The Alaska Bar Association's governing board will meet, tentatively next week, to reconsider the invitation to Dershowitz to address membership at the October meeting.
“In a state like Alaska that has grave problems with violence towards women, violence towards children — including sexual violence — it’s just 100% the wrong message to send,” Scott Kendall, an Anchorage attorney who previously served as chief of staff to former Gov. Bill Walker, told Alaska’s Energy Desk. “My reaction was, ‘No way on Earth would I go to that dinner.’ "
Attorney Rob Stone, the board president, said he was aware of the controversy surrounding Dershowitz's connections to Epstein and serving as one of President Donald Trump's lawyers in the impeachment process, saying "certainly, Jeffrey Epstein did some horrible, horrible things."
But, Stone added, "criminal defense lawyers are often guilty by association with the clients that they represent."
When asked about the controversy, Dershowitz told The Associated Press he has a long history of defending women.
"I've defended more women who have been victims of sexual assault than I have men who have been accused," he said in a phone interview.
Dershowitz said the list ranges from the famous, like Patty Hearst and Mia Farrow, to poor women whom he defends at no cost.
"The people who make that argument are totally ignorant of my record," he said.
Dershowitz also said there was nothing improper about defending Epstein.
"I did absolutely nothing wrong in the Epstein case, I defended it, yes, that was my job. I was not his friend," he said. "I was paid per hour for every hour I spent on his case. I did absolutely nothing wrong."
He encouraged any Alaska Bar Association member to read his book "Guilt by Association."
"It lays out the case. It has all the evidence," he said. "If I am invited to speak at the bar, I will answer all questions about this."
Stone said it remains uncertain if the annual convention will even be held during the coronavirus pandemic.