Photo: Courtesy David W. Streets
If you want to get your case in front of the Supreme Court, don’t represent yourself at trial or become a public spectacle.Otherwise, you really hurt your chances of arguing before the justices, according to experienced Supreme Court lawyer Carter Phillips.
Last weekend, we watched “Kevorkian,” HBO’s documentary about the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who helped nearly 140 terminally ill patients kill themselves.
Kevorkian was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 after he admitted to personally lethally injecting one patient, the British Medical Journal reported at the time.
He was tried four other times for helping patients give themselves lethal injections, but he was never convicted in those cases.
In the second-degree murder case, Kevorkian may have sabotaged himself.
According to the documentary, and subsequent interviews, Kevorkian said he represented himself at trial and widely announced he wanted to be convicted so that he could petition the Supreme Court to hear his case.
Ultimately, Kevorkian wanted the nation’s highest court to rule that the Constitution allows physician-assisted suicide.
Kevorkian’s strategy, which Phillips told Business Insider was a “pretty strange one,” backfired. The high court never took up his case.
“He’s not going to get any points for arguing it himself,” Carter said, adding that Kevorkian actually seriously hurt his case with his misguided strategy.
Only a skilled lawyer would be able to effectively steer a case through the various appeals courts and then effectively argue it before the supremes.
But Kevorkian’s own personality may have hurt his strategy more than anything else.
In his quest to publicize his cause, Kevorkian went on “60 Minutes” in 1998 and released a video of himself personally injecting a patient with euthanasia drugs.
That kind of showboat behaviour is a surefire way to hurt your chances of making your case before the Supreme Court.
“By nature he was provocative,” Phillips said of Kevorkian. “But that’s not typically the best way to capture the Supreme Court’s attention and affections.”
The Supreme Court has considered right-to-die issues in the past.
The high court upheld in 2006 an Oregon law that let doctors prescribe fatal doses of medicines to terminally ill patients, PBS Newshour reported at the time.
But in that case, the doctors weren’t going on national television and showing themselves helping a patient die, like Kevorkian did.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.