Capital Defenders as Outsider Lawyers

28 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2015

Date Written: August 1, 2014


What role can lawyers play in the internal disputes of a community to which they are outsiders? This essay highlights two core rationales for outsider intervention in support of internal dissent. It examines these rationales in the case of capital defenders from the U.S. North in the U.S. South. The position as an outsider can provide the will and freedom to launch direct attacks on injustice. Frequently, outsiders also bring superior resources for the fight. When outsiders engage in direct social critique, however, they can be accused of cultural imperialism. As an alternative, outsider lawyers can marshal indirect challenges, using professional tools of conventional lawyering. Yet this can also backfire. The notion of expertise may be tainted by perceptions of an elitist invasion, and, unlike classic cause lawyering, conventional lawyering may lack a narrative with substantive moral force. The case of capital defenders suggests that to support lasting social change outsider lawyers must amplify the voices of local community members and their expressions of intragroup dissent.

Suggested Citation

Sabbeth, Kathryn Anne, Capital Defenders as Outsider Lawyers (August 1, 2014). Chicago-Kent Law Review, Vol. 89, 2014, Available at SSRN:

Kathryn Anne Sabbeth (Contact Author)

Rutgers Law School ( email )

123 Washington Stree
Newark, NJ 07102
United States

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