Tomáš Sokol: “In law, things are not black and white”

Written by: Monika Mudranincová
Photo by: Vojtěch Vlk

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.

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 for that?
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 innocent.

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, even 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 of 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 issues.

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.

A life in numbers
1951 born in Prague, 6 October
1974 graduated from electrical technology vocational school
1978 graduated from the Charles University Law School in Prague
1978-90 active as an attorney
1990-92 served as a city prosecutor in Prague, then was named interior minister in the Czechoslovak Federal government
1992 – 2005 co-founded 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.

What is your success rate in term of cases won?
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 Krejčíř 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 process?
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 was unfortunately 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, even 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 throw 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 voters 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? In 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 Constitutional 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? And 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, wine, whisky!

How would you like people to remember you?
Let them forget me.






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