Here’s a shocking thing. In the United States of America, criminal defendants are entitled to a lawyer.When criminal defendants are particularly high profile and the issues especially difficult, it often takes very good lawyers to take on the case and often they do so for free.
A group affiliated with Dick Cheney’s daughter Elizabeth and former New York Times Op-ed columnist William Kristol apparently has some issues with this.
The group, Keep America Safe, is getting a lot of heat — and a lot of press — for releasing a video carrying the headline “DOJ: Department of Jihad” and asking of certain government officials, “Whose values do they share?”
Who are these evil doers? DOJ lawyers who, while in private practice, represented detainees at Guantanamo or signed amicus briefs on policy issues (sometimes, The Washington Post pointed out, for conservative legal organisations).
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) also wrote a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder saying that, “the decision to allow attorneys who advocated for terrorists held at Guantanamo to craft detainee policy during the war on terror would be akin to allowing attorneys for the Mafia to draft organised crime policy during the 1960s.”
What exactly are these people saying? That people who are detained and accused of terrorism are guilty and that they deserve no representation at all, ever? That attorneys who are willing to take on work that the government desperately needs them to take on in order for terrorism cases to move forward should be forever banned from working for the government?
The “values” that these attorneys share are the values they raised their hands and promised to uphold when they became lawyers — to uphold the law and represent those that need legal counsel.
And now that some of them have left their very high-paying firm jobs to take on their country as a client, they are getting criticised in a propaganda video created by a group affiliated with Krisol and Cheney, intelligent people who we frankly don’t believe really believe this.
This is not a conservative issue or a liberal one — as noted by the WSJ Law Blog, critics of the video have come swinging from both sides — but a simple legal one.
The National Law Journal has a round-up of comments from BigLaw firms and attorneys — including those from O’Melveny, Covington, Sidley Austin and Arnold & Porter — who do the type of work being attacked in the video. The full article deserves a read, but the general consensus is unsurprising — criticism of those who take on tough pro bono cases is likely to have little to no impact on those willing to do the work.
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