Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Stimson Should Be Sacked And Disbarred

I'm a day or two late to the outrage party on this one, but I'll add my voice to the chorus of people suggesting that Charles "Cully" Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, should be sacked for demonstrating profound and dangerous ignorance of the American legal system. Making comments during an interview with a Washington DC radio program, Stimson expressed dismay that lawyers at some of the nation's top law firms were defending Guantanamo detainees on a pro bono basis. Stimson suggested that he'd like to publish a list of these law firms, and that business clients should consider boycotting them. This is simply outrageous. A vigorous defense in an adversarial trial system with defendants presumed innocent until proven guilty is at the very heart of our American legal system. The tradition of pro bono work on the part of American lawyers is an essential part of insuring that quality representation is available to all. It's vital to the system to mount a proper defense, for the integrity of the system, otherwise the process becomes a mockery of justice. Even Saddam Hussein got some top lawyers defending him, which was as it should be, so that the process of the trial is demonstrably fair. To be sure, some of the detainees at Guantanamo may well be dangerous threats to our nation, but that remains to be proved. The government should make its case against those people, and they should be entitled to a quality defense. To suggest that it is somehow "un-American" for lawyers to volunteer to defend detainees is to fundamentally misunderstand the American legal system. And to suggest that law firms supporting such pro bono work should be targeted for boycott is actively hostile to the integrity of our legal system. Having demonstrated such reckless contempt for our legal system, Charles Stimson should not only be immediately sacked from his government appointment, he should also be disbarred.

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