Saturday, September 01, 2007

"Legal Ethics" Is Not an Oxymoron

From US News and World Report:

The government's legal arguments justifying the detention of hundreds of people at the Guantánamo Bay naval base have been repudiated three times by the U.S. Supreme Court. But it's not just outsiders who take issue with the U.S. Justice Department strategy: Up to one fourth of the department's own civil appellate staff has recently opted out of handling the government's cases against detainee appeals, two sources familiar with the matter tell U.S. News.

These conscientious objectors—their exact number is not known—have decided not to take part in the government's litigation against the detainees because of disagreements with the legal approach, these sources say. They would not elaborate on the specific reasons for the objections, but critics have long objected to the government's failure to formally charge detainees and have pushed for closing Guantánamo because of allegations of torture and inhumane conditions. Defense lawyers also contend that the government has stymied their cases by withholding documents and curbing client access.

Good for them. A lawyer is more than just a mouthpiece. Sometimes, in the words of Elihu Root, his job involves "telling would-be clients that they are damned fools and should stop." And sometimes, it involves telling a particularly insistent client, "no, I'm not going to do that. It's not right. Find yourself another lawyer if you want."

Even if that client is the government. Maybe especially then.

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