U.S. official intimidates, impugns loyalty of pro bono lawyers

[American Civil War pictoral envelope ca. 1860-1865]

Don't they teach civics in school any more?

A member of Bush's team and a lawyer himself, acting in his official capacity as head of "detainee" affairs, intimidates lawyers defending the most defenseless of the defenseless, saying they are acting against the national interest. Sounds actionable to me - even treasonous.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 — The senior Pentagon official in charge of military detainees suspected of terrorism said in an interview this week that he was dismayed that lawyers at many of the nation’s top firms were representing prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and that the firms’ corporate clients should consider ending their business ties.

The comments by Charles D. Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, produced an instant torrent of anger from lawyers, legal ethics specialists and bar association officials, who said Friday that his comments were repellent and displayed an ignorance of the duties of lawyers to represent people in legal trouble.

“This is prejudicial to the administration of justice,” said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University and an authority on legal ethics. “It’s possible that lawyers willing to undertake what has been long viewed as an admirable chore will decline to do so for fear of antagonizing important clients.

“We have a senior government official suggesting that representing these people somehow compromises American interests, and he even names the firms, giving a target to corporate America.”

I thought this sort of thing had been settled once and for all with the judgment and courage of John Adams and other American patriots in mounting a defense for the accused in the Boston Massacre trials.

The Times follows its front-page news coverage with an excellent editorial. Yet even its (considerable) outrage seems insufficient under the circumstances and within the present political environment in particular.

[image from the-athenaeum]