Saturday, January 13, 2007

Pentagon Official Aids Top Law Firm Recruiting Efforts

Charles D. "Cully" Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, attacked "top" law firms Thursday for representing detainees at Guantanamo. In a Federal News Radio interview Stimson predicted
"Actually you know I think the news story that you're really going to start seeing in the next couple of weeks is this: As a result of a FOIA request through a major news organization, somebody asked, 'Who are the lawyers around this country representing detainees down there,' and you know what, it's shocking.
I think, quite honestly, when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms, and I think that is going to have major play in the next few weeks. And we want to watch that play out."

Evidently Stimson was merely mouthing the week's official wingbat talking points, as the same position turned up Friday in a Wall Street Journal editorial (subscribers only) by Robert L. Pollock.
I'm not sure what to make of the Pentagon's (or a "major news organization's") need for a FOIA request to ferret out the names of lawyers representing Guitmo detainees--the membership of the Guantanamo Bay Bar Association has been posted online for months. It includes not only "top" law firms like Covington & Burling and Jenner & Block, but also a number of smaller firms, as well as law schools and Federal Defenders. One of the smaller players, Michael Rapkin of the Woodland Hills, California real estate firm of Rapkin, Gitlin & Beaumont, addressed students at Southwestern Law School as part of our participation in Seton Hall Law School's Guantanamo Teach-In last October. Rapkin volunteered through The Center for Constitutional Rights to represent Guantanamo detainee Yousef Abdula al-Rubaish.
The substantial cost of this representation in time and money comes out of Rapkin's own pocket. His account of his experiences and those of his client in the Pasadena Weekly last September demonstrates why it is so important that detainees receive the best legal representation they can get.
Stimson's remarks have been effectively denounced by, among others, The Washington Post and law professor and blogger Michael Froomkin, both of whom point out the importance of the opportunity for pro bono detainee representation in a firm's ability to recruit "top" law school graduates (a benefit not available to Mr. Rapkin). It seems unlikely that any "top" firms will follow Stimson's advice, or that any of their corporate clients will pressure them to do so. Opportunities for satisfying pro bono experience are highly desired and valued by highly qualified law school graduates, and Guantanamo provides a gold-mine of such opportunities. Not only is the work morally necessary, legally challenging, and politically sexy, but it is also free of any potential conflicts between the interests of the detainees and those of the top firms' corporate clients (I assume Halliburton's pet law firm is not involved in this work). These indigent clients can thus be served without challenging a firm's corporate clients' legal right to oppress other indigents on a daily basis. Everybody wins.

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