A devil's advocate defending scoundrels or a prestigious
attorney who deserves respect? Opinions regarding one of the
best-paid lawyers in the land vary. Read what the defender of
fugitive entrepreneur Radovan Krejčíř thinks about truth, politics,
innocence, and justice.
Tomáš Sokol: "In law, things are
Written by: Monika Mudranincová
Photo by: Vojtěch Vlk
Many people still don't understand why you, a former interior
minister whose job description included fighting crime, went over
to the other side and now defends criminals. What is your explanation
In my case it wasn't a question of switching sides. Why do people
think that right is on one side and wrong is on the other? Why
do they think that a person who is accused of something is immediately
a criminal? It can always be just the opposite. To me, advocacy
is one of the purest, most beautiful vocations there is, so I don't
indulge in thoughts about morally sullying myself, such thoughts
are insignificant to me. To those who think that way I say fine,
vote attorneys out of existence. If you think they're worse than
garbage men and prey on criminals and corpses, then get rid of
them! The lawyer's task is to bring a certain balance into the
legal process, and as it turns out, in many cases thanks to the
lawyer it is discovered that a person society has gone after is
But in this country the presumption of innocence receives little
respect, don't you think?
That's true. The public often thinks a person's innocent because
he's nice, and that someone who isn't nice is guilty. But you
have to bear in mind that even a completely unpleasant person,
a murderer, has the right to due process.
Speaking of murderers, I understand that an attorney has to do
everything to ensure his client's success, but how do you deal
with it inside? How far are you willing to go?
A lawyer has to do everything that's legal. He has to do everything
he can to cast doubt on the prosecutor's version. Not because
he wants to save a criminal, but because he can't think in terms
guilty or innocent, but in terms of due process or a lack thereof.
To me the persona doesn't mean much, I'm interested in due process,
and when there's a doubt that favors the accused, he must be
found not guilty.
What case you would never accept?
I would be doubtful about violent crimes cases, because I have
not been doing it for years. I don't know what is going on in
this field anymore. Also, I refused to take action on behalf
of my father
in his retirement case. I told him that if he wants to lose the
case completely, I would take it. I just don't understand these
What are your criteria when choosing a client? Do prestige and
media interest play any role?
We accept some cases because they're of professional interest and
unique in their own way. Media interest is a by-product. For example,
I accepted the "Mein Kampf" criminal case (ed. note:
Sokol's client, Michal Zítko, was accused of promoting Nazism by
publishing a Czech translation of Mein Kampf) because I was interested
in the bounds of society's tolerance and the bounds of how far
criminal law is able to go. As it turned out, criminal law is rational
and did not consider the publication of the translation to be a
crime. At the beginning it was a challenge for me. We won, even
though many people now think that I'm a closet fascist.
What is your success rate in term of cases won?
life in numbers
||born in Prague,
from electrical technology vocational school
the Charles University Law School in Prague
as an attorney
a city prosecutor in Prague, then was named interior
minister in the Czechoslovak Federal government
the law offices of Brož & Sokol, where he works
as an attorney to this day (now Brož & Sokol & Novák)
in the areas of criminal, civil, commercial law and
other fields. He is published in the daily and professional
press. Among other things, he co-authors the "Law
of Information and Telecommunications Systems" publication.
To one of your colleagues I said 99%, and she almost fell from
the chair! Seriously, I absolutely do not know, it is hard to
judge. In law things are not black and white, lose or win.
For me the
basic criteria is what the client says. Even though I know that
there is a minimum chance to win and the client still wants to
go to court, for instance to postpone something, then I'm successful.
Clients of yours like the choirmaster of Bambini di Praga,
who is accused of sexual abuse, or fugitive-entrepreneur Radovan
aren't very likable. You could find countless reactions on the
internet that claim that you defend rich "trash", that
you're the devil's advocate. Why do you think people react to you
that way when you're just exercising the accused's right to due
And why do you think people can take to the streets and lynch other
people? Those mice don't have the courage to take a position and
defend their opinions. They just vent their virulence, inferiority
complexes, and evil in chat rooms. I don't look at it, but my wife
does sometimes, and it makes her sick. I look at them like barking
dogs, and the caravan continues on its way.
The Krejčíř affair is highly politicized. Has any politician
contacted you in this matter?
No politician has tried to contact me about it. I think that
most people look at this more soberly and that ČSSD's reaction
emotional. But you won't get me onto a political level, that's
the politicians' world, not mine.
Your price list quotes CZK 3,000
to CZK 4,500 per hour. Is that so?
Or more. Don't be offended, but I never discuss who pays what.
As a former interior minister are you satisfied with how minister
Bublan is leading the ministry?
To tell you the truth, I have no reservations about him. I had
more reservations about Dr. Gross, because he built such a peculiar
police structure there outside of the regular structure, various
special teams...that was a bit unfortunate. An interior minister
shouldn't create his own information sources, he should run the
ministry politically and not act like an Inspector Colombo who
directly controls the police.
As a known anti-communist, what do you have to say about KSČM's
rising electoral preference?
People are stupid. Their social hatred and negation of the state
manifests itself when they elect extremist parties - communists,
in this country. But what party defrauds the electorate more
than the communists? Whatever they promise could never happen,
by accident, never mind if they wanted it! In a way, I'd like
to see them in the government for a month. Even their fans would
them out because nothing would happen, nothing would be nationalized.
Clearly, it would be a terrible shame to have them there, but
if it happened only as virtual reality, in order to make their
aware that they vote for people who are frauds and promise nonsense,
then it would be worth it.
Do you remember the claim by premier Paroubek, who said that
he would happily ally himself with Martians if it was necessary?
fact he was defending dialogue with the communists. Are you not
taking that seriously enough?
But they aren't so dangerous if we look at ourselves as a part
of the European region and the European Union. What can they
do? If they thought up something that went beyond the law, the
Court would do away with it. Fortunately, there are several political
parties here that look out for each other. It's no longer one
party that can raise hell, steal, harass - so what's it all about?
if the government is more to the left or more to the right, it
doesn't matter much.
Why didn't you try to return to politics after your failed candidacy
for election to the Senate?
If the voters didn't want me, what would I do there? I was quite
happy to leave politics. Things weren't always great. Until now
I remember how negatively people reacted. For instance, I arrived
at a gathering on some square in my BMW, which I paid with money
I've earned, and some hero-citizen came forward and said that no
one who earns honest money can buy such a car. I stood up and said, "Sir,
it is my BMW and I earned it with my work." But once someone
sends out such disinformation, the ball rolls on. It's not only
in the Czech Republic, but all around the world. When someone is
more visible, they must count on being a target.
What do you think you'll be doing in five years?
I hope I'll at least be breathing.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
I really don't know, alive, thank God! Aha, I've got it - beer,
How would you like people to remember you?
Let them forget me.