Saturday, January 13, 2007

Unpatriotic to Represent Accused Terrorists?

Charles D. Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of state for detainee affairs, riled lawyers and ethics experts by suggesting in an interview on Thursday that law firms shouldn't represent Guantanamo detainees -- and that clients should drop firms that do. Official Attacks Top Law Firms Over Detainees, New York Times, Jan. 13, 2007.

Monica Crowley, a syndicated talk show host, used a FOIA request to get a 14-page list of lawyers representing detainees. Mr. Stimson said it was "shocking" that the list included the country's "major law firms."

He said, "I think, quite honestly, when corporate C.E.O.'s see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those C.E.O.'s are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms, and I think that is going to have major play in the next few weeks. And we want to watch that play out."

Karen J. Mathis, a Denver lawyer who is president of the American Bar Association, said: "Lawyers represent people in criminal cases to fulfill a core American value: the treatment of all people equally before the law. To impugn those who are doing this critical work — and doing it on a volunteer basis — is deeply offensive to members of the legal profession, and we hope to all Americans."
Others in the administration have distanced themselves from Mr. Stimson's comments.
In an interview on Friday, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said he had no problem with the current system of representation. “Good lawyers representing the detainees is the best way to ensure that justice is done in these cases,” he said.
The article said that Mr. Stimson was a lawyer (so you'd think he'd have picked up a little about the importance of representation in our adversary system). I was curious, so I looked up his background. He was appointed to his post a year ago, when he was 42. He went to law school at George Mason, and worked as a homicide prosecutor in Frederick County, MD, before becoming an assistant U.S. Attorney in DC. He was a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy JAG Corps. National Briefing Washington: Adviser On Detainees Is Named, N.Y. Times, Jan. 24, 2006, at A16.

With his background as a prosecutor, he really should have known that people accused of crimes, even horrible crimes, deserve to have good lawyers and that the lawyers who represent even guilty people are doing a good thing, not something treasonous.

Update (Jan. 14): See Carolyn Elefant's post and readers' comments at Legal Blog Watch: Should Law Firm Clients Control Law Firms' Pro Bono Work?, Jan. 12, 2007. And for much more -- news sources and over 100 comments, go to the Volokh Conspiracy.


lws said...

They're trying to free the terrorists and must be stopped by any means necessary.

lws said...

He said sarcastically.

This is a war like no other. As such, the rules of war need to be re-written. If we are involved in a generational conflict, does it make sense to hold enemy combatants indefinitely without hearings? That amounts to life imprisonment without any hearing.

The fact that the administration is doing everything they can to have complete control over the detainees is frightening.

The fact that they are trying to have no oversight over the information used to identify potential detainees makes it doubly frightening.

Lenoxus said...

But, but... why sould someone be accused if they're not guilty in the first place? Anything short of omniscience on the part of accusers simply makes no sense.