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Limits Proposed for Guantanamo Lawyers

Causing unrest, security risks,  hunger strikes, protests and disobediance are hardly the activities that we commonly associate with Biglaw attorneys. But that's precisely what the large firm lawyers, and, indeed, all the lawyers, who represent Guantanamo detainees have been accused of by the Justice Department, according to this New York Times story, Court Asked to Limit Lawyers at Guantánamo (4/26/07). As a result, the Justice Department has proposed new restrictions on lawyers' contact with their clients at Guantanamo. Restrictions include: limiting lawyers to three visits with existing clients and permitting military lawyers and intelligence officers not involved in the case to read lawyers' mail to clients and allowing government officials to decide, on their own, to deny lawyers access to evidence used to determine a detainee's enemy combatant status. The Justice Department defends its actions, arguing, “There is no right on the part of counsel to access to detained aliens on a secure military base in a foreign country.” The detainees' lawyers have harsh words for the ban, and rightly so. Neil H. Koslowe, a lawyer at Shearman & Sterling in Washington, is quoted in the New York Times article, calling DOJ's claims about lawyers' actions a “McCarthy-era charge” that was not supported by the evidence.

Having allowed Guantanamo detainees to retain lawyers, DOJ ought to extend all of the rights attendant to the right to counsel, whether a constitutional right exists or not. Irrespective of whether the detainees have a right to counsel, the lawyers who represent them have the right and, more importantly, the obigation to zealously represent these clients within the bounds of the law. By limiting lawyer access to clients, DOJ impedes lawyers from representing clients in the manner demanded by the Code of Professional Responsibility. 

You can learn more about the lawyers who represent Guantanamo detainees in Ari Kaplan's documentary videos, Like Snowflakes in December.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on April 26, 2007 at 06:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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