Stand With Them: Zohra Bakhtary
Her crime? Asking the judge for leniency for her client. AKA fulfilling her constitutional obligation to her client. AKA doing her job. Reading reports about the case were shocking, the transcript even more so. But, to hear the story from Zohra herself is a compelling example of the kind of disdain public defenders face every day, simply for upholding the constitution.If you're a part of the public defense community, then you very likely know about today's hero: Zohra Bakhtary. In May of 2016, Zohra, a Deputy Public Defender from Clark County Nevada, made national headlines when a judge ordered her handcuffed during the middle of a sentencing hearing.
Her crime? Asking the judge for leniency for her client. AKA fulfilling her constitutional obligation to her client. AKA doing her job. Reading reports about the case were shocking, the transcript even more so. But, to hear the story from Zohra herself is a compelling example of the kind of disdain public defenders face every day, simply for upholding the constitution.
For the public defense community, Zohra's story was a point of protest and pride: You may not like us and you may try and silence us, but we will always keep going. To Zohra, the media coverage that followed was overwhelming.
To Zohra, arguing for leniency for her client wasn't an act of protest or bravery, it was simply required to do her job. She didn't ask for the media coverage. She especially didn't ask the media to use a photo of her from years ago, making her look like an inexperienced attorney when she has, in reality, been an effective advocate for nearly five years.
Nonetheless, Zohra handled it all with grace. Despite the handcuffs, the contempt citation, and the extensive media coverage, Zohra came out on top. The contempt citation filed by Judge Conrad Hafen was dismissed. When it came time for reelection, Judge Hafen was soundly defeated by his competitor.
And Zohra? She's still getting up, every single day, and doing her job: Serving as an advocate for the voiceless.
This episode of Stand With Them, a podcast that explores heroes of the public defense world, features Zohra and her story. It's a story of resistance, duty, and grace under pressure. And given the current political climate, it's a story we all need to hear. A reminder that no matter what opposition we face, we as public defenders and those who work in the public defender community must always step up and do our part.
Take some time and listen to Zohra's story. Let her bravery and steadfastness inspire you to face the day. Stand with her.
To hear more from Zohra, you can follow her on twitter @PD_ZBakhtary