THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:
Last week, in a radio interview, Charles "Cully" Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, told a radio audience that, 'the major law firms that are representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay were un-American'. He went on to suggest that corporate CEOs should fire the law firms. Stimson then read, to the listening audience, the names of the law firms that were representing these detainees, pro bono.
The New York Times, ran an editorial soon thereafter and stated that "it does not seem to matter to Mr. Stimson, who is a lawyer, that a great many of those detained did not deserve imprisonment, let alone the indefinite detention to which they are subjected as illegal enemy combatants". Stimson simply forgets about the fundamental American right that everyone should have legal counsel, even the most heinous villain.
Stimson also needs a refresher course on historical legal cases. The US Constitution does not limit the right to due process of law only to American citizens. Two great precedents include the case involving the Boston Massacre in 1770 and the slave rebellion case involving the Amistad. Interestingly enough, the lawyers for the defendants in each of those cases were US Presidents.
In 1770, John Adams represented the "odious" Redcoats charged with firing into a mob of Colonials, killing five people. Another famous patriot, Paul Revere, helped to supply the evidence. The rancor and clamor for the hasty conviction and execution of the British soldiers were deafening. It is incredibly difficult to imagine the challenges that Adams faced in his quest to win a verdict of acquittal, which he did achieve for six soldiers.
In 1839, John Quincy Adams championed another unpopular cause, representing an African named Cinque who led a rebellion of captives aboard a slave ship, the Amistad. Cinque and his followers were charged with murder and piracy. In the end, John Quincy Adams won their release after argument before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The point here is that even non-citizens -- at that time slaves deemed by many Americans as sub-human cargo -- were given due process of law and the right to legal counsel. Mr. Stimson, on the other hand, argues that corporate America should fire law firms whose lawyers have represented the Guantanamo detainees because they "are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line in 2001."
On Wednesday, Florida Bar President Hank Coxe sent a letter to President Bush asking for his immediate repudiation of the statements made by Stimson. Coxe called Stimson's comments “abhorrent to the highest ideals of this nation’s legal profession and an affront to the lawyers who provide legal services to the needy and oppressed throughout Florida and America.” Coxe went on to say that, “It is clear that those lawyers and law firms representing the detainees should be applauded, not attacked, criticized or associated by innuendo with wrongdoing. The lawyers who have undertaken representation of detainees, no matter what their personal beliefs, are doing precisely what this profession and a civilized society demand – to suggest otherwise is dangerous and offensive to our Bill of Rights.” Coxe concluded his letter by stating that, “Mr. Stimson has demonstrated ignorance of the basic precepts of due process and the right to counsel."
We, the criminal defense lawyers, who labor in our own little REGJB, are sometimes criticized for representing the people that we take on as clients. We ARE "Liberty's Last Champion" and it's high time that the rest of society, including the deputy assistant secretary of defense, begins to remember that!
CAPTAIN OUT ...................