Saturday, January 13, 2007

Enemy of the court

For anyone who is curious, here is the relevant section from a Wall Street Journal quasi-editorial (subs. req'd) by Robert Pollock, which was a key part of an apparently coordinated attack by the Pentagon, Republican party operative Monica Crowley, and the Journal, on the ability of Guantanamo Bay detainees to obtain legal representation --

Guantanamo detainees don't lack for legal representation. A list of lead counsel released this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request reads like a who's who of America's most prestigious law firms: Shearman and Sterling; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr; Covington & Burling; Hunton & Williams; Sullivan & Cromwell; Debevoise & Plimpton; Cleary Gottlieb; and Blank Rome are among the marquee names.

A senior U.S. official I spoke to speculates that this information might cause something of scandal, since so much of the pro bono work being done to tilt the playing field in favor of al Qaeda appears to be subsidized by legal fees from the Fortune 500. "Corporate CEOs seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists" who deliberately target the U.S. economy, he opined.

As the New York Times notes, there's a particular disengenuousness in the anonymous quote Pollock uses, since it was clearly Pentagon official Charles Stimson. Note also that George Bush regularly appoints people from these firms to positions in his administration, such as here, so Stimson might want to take his complaint to his boss.

Incidentally, the article also lifts from a Pentagon news release last year that the detainees love Harry Potter books -- thus making everything else about the camp OK.

UPDATE: The WSJ offers a forum for an op-ed critique of what was essentially a scheme between Pollock, Stimson, and Monica Crowley to manufacture some "outrage" -- Harvard Law professor Charles Fried (subs. req'd) responds:

It may just be that Mr. Stimson is annoyed that his overstretched staff lawyers are opposed by highly trained and motivated elite lawyers working in fancy offices with art work in the corridors and free lunch laid on in sumptuous cafeterias. But it has ever been so; it is the American way. The right to representation does not usually mean representation by the best, brightest and sleekest. That in this case it does is just an irony -- one to savor, not deplore.

It is no surprise that firms like Wilmer Hale (which represents both Big Pharma and Tobacco Free Kids), Covington and Burling (which represents both Big Tobacco and Guantanamo detainees), and the other firms on Mr. Stimson's hit list, are among the most sought-after by law school graduates, and retain the loyalty and enthusiasm of their partners. They offer their lawyers the profession at its best, and help assure that the rule of law is not just a slogan but a satisfying way of life.

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