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More of the Bar Comes Out Against Stimson

Since my earlier post on Assistant Deputy of Defense Secretary Cully Stimson's criticism of law firm representation of Guantanamo detainees last Friday, a number of other prominent groups have come out in support of the law firms. As reported in this article from the Boston Globe (1/16/07), 100 law school deans have signed a letter condemning Cully's suggestion that corporations should reconsider representation by large law firms representing detainees. And ABA President Karen Mathis issued this statement, that:

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.

Finally, professor Eric Muller at Is That Legal? makes the interesting argument that Stimson's position is contrary to precedent. Muller delved into the ABA's and California Bar's position on attorney representation of Japanese internees back during World War II and discovered that these groups, as well as the federal government itself, called upon American attorneys to represent internees. Muller posts some of the original Bar documents up at his Web site -- and it's quite enlightening. 

At this point, even the Pentagon has disavowed Stimson's remarks. As for me, after reading all of the commentary, I am more appreciative of the rights of the detainees' to counsel as well as the impropriety (or, at least, appearance of impropriety) of a government official making these comments. 

But at the same time, there's a part of me that still wonders why the Stimson episode has drawn so much attention. Lawyers who represent clients with unpopular causes face controversy and criticism all the time -- from judges, from prosecutors and from others in the community. Defending clients, notwithstanding criticism or economic consequences, is what we lawyers do.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on January 17, 2007 at 01:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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