Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Posted by Alan Childress
Every blawg has taken up the clarion flugelhorn in reply to DOD's Cully Stimson who told U.S. businesses to pull their law work from law firms who do pro bono work for "terrorists." To a blogger on the role of the legal profession in society, his comments come across as so asinine that one would have hoped they would have been mostly ignored and the employee relocated and de-powered for such an outlandish and incompetent misunderstanding of the basic and best norms of our (and his) profession. But apparently no such governmental repudiation and correction is forthcoming.
Either we believe in lawyers or we don't. I do. I do for corporations and their employees who want to be fully represented and assert whatever privilege is allowed. I do for young associates and big law firms who give of their time for pro bono representation of all sorts of people, including Stimson's enemy-combatants. I wish no one felt the need to reply to Stimson's comments. Many have, and of course they all make more sense than the comments.
Here is a very good reply from one such associate, from the Weil Gotshal firm's office in DC, published on Salon.com. (HT to Jane Hicks, who has represented corporations, football stars, and convicted murderers.) And MyShingle's Carolyn Elefant notes here, "Stimson's remarks are offensive only if there's the potential that they might work." She implores biglaw not to cut and run, even as she notes that sometimes it's biglaw making the same kind of suggestions about others' clients.
Ray Ward at Minor Wisdom here quotes the 6th amendment and says, "Some guy named Cully Stimson would apparently like to repeal that last infinitive phrase, if not the entire amendment. That wouldn't matter if Stimson were just some wingnut. But he's not just a wingnut. He's a lawyer, which means he ought to be familiar with the Sixth Amendment."
Ultimately I guess I am used to the usual public question asked of criminal defense attorneys, "How can you represent guilty people?" (The defense attorneys that I know say it's representing the innocent ones that makes them puke in panic.) I am not used to the American government asking it. And then asking for those who do to be punished into submission by their other clients. And suggesting that selfless volunteers are secretly funded by terrorists. How does he still have a position of power and responsibility in a system devoted to the rule of law?
As any decent anarchist would say, "First we do, let's kill all the lawyers." In a democracy, I say, "First we do, let's not empower anarchists."