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The War against Lawyers

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We really can’t be surprised that the government for years has been in a battle to destroy the legal profession. It wasn’t that long ago that attorneys served an apprenticeship as a prosecutor before moving on to private practice. For the past twenty years this career path has been made less and less likely. Prosecutors are now, and have been, career prosecutors. This tends to create a “them and us” mentality that destroys collegiality. In my opinion, collegiality is required to make sure that justice is done and avoid the politicization of the Justice Department.

I have seen lots of attorneys attacked and vilified for doing nothing more than representing their clients vigorously, professionally and ethically.  Lynn Stewart, attorney for Sheikh Abdulrahman in the World Trade Center bombing case, is just one of the more recent examples. Ben Kuehne, of Miami, is another. Ben’s “crime” was writing an ethics opinion. The prosecution against him is madness and sends a clear message to the bar: defend your client and you will be next. The same can be said for Lynn Stewart. And could someone explain to me why it is OK for the prosecutor to commence a case with a press release, but if the defense does so, it’s usually contempt of court?

In India after the Mumbai attacks, the local bar passed a resolution forbidding its members to defend the accused. In previous Indian terrorist cases, attorneys for defendants were beaten up on the way to court. This happened to me once, but it was ‘only’ the Noriega case. Here in Riyadh, the local bar has refused to provide representation for the one hundred or so “deviants” (to use the local expression) who are aiders, abettors, friends and supporters of Al-Qaeda. So much for the common American belief that all Saudis are terrorists.

When the cold war ended, George Bush I created the drug war to keep the military-industrial complex going, a la 1984–(Eurasia is our enemy it has always been–no, Eastasia is our enemy, it has always been…) We needed an enemy. An enemy was provided, though the war against drugs was nothing more than a war against our own selves. With the 9/11 attacks we finally had a real war, and the drug war became as welcome as a uninvited guest at a wedding who has stuck around too long. Eventually we learned that a war against a battle tactic cannot be “won” in any conventional sense. Even more embarrassingly, “Charlie Wilson’s War” was the foundation for the database (literally, al-qaeda) that provided the mujahideen for wars in Chechnya, Bosnia, New York and Madrid. My friends at the FBI hankered for the old drug war days and were never entirely comfortable fighting in a culture where even the proper spelling of a name presented an insurmountable obstacle. The Miami Seven trial was a consequence of this unfamiliarity. Poor black men from Liberty City pledged bayat to Osama bin Laden on the condition that they would be given shoes. The Sheikh would likely have taken a dim view of the insistence on bible studies. The informants made a substantial sum of cash on that case, but taking these descalzos off the streets of Miami did not make America safer.

I’ve often wondered if there are any real controls over money paid to informants. I remember the gay pilot who didn’t like to be alone on drug runs, so the DEA paid his boyfriend $25,000 per flight  to accompany him. Strange, especially when government employees have to jump through high hoops to get a travel voucher paid if they take their wife or husband on official business.

The photograph, I think, represents how most prosecutors view defense attorneys. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

Written by mokane

December 17, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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