Recent attention has been given to the efforts of some politicians and political commentators to demean lawyers who have represented Guantanamo Bay detainees in the various types of legal proceedings against them. Special focus has been on attorneys who work in the Justice Department but while in private practice represented some of those at Guantanamo. Liz Cheney has called then the “Al Qaeda Seven.”
Shame on any Senator — Republican or Democrat — who presses on the identification of Justice Department lawyers who previously represented Guantanamo detainees. Sen, Charles Grassley of Iowa has been pushing hard for the Justice Department to identify all such lawyers. So, are Grassley’s efforts merely the new McCarthyism?
Anyone can try to justify it any way they want, but these recent actions are still a legislator (like McCarthy) trying to “get names” of people in the executive branch merely because of their past associations and activities (like McCarthy). More importantly, however, an attempt to get the names of lawyers is particularly despicable because it demonstrates an acute misunderstanding of the role which lawyers play in our justice system. Attorneys do NOT represent clients because they love the clients or agree with the clients’ views or actions. In fact, to the contrary, lawyers represent clients in spite of those views. Rule 1.2(b) of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct states the following:
A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.
Not one single lawyer who represented a Guantanamo detainee did so because he/she supports Al Qaeda or terrorism; rather, those lawyers did so because they believe in the justice system and the idea that everyone deserves legal representation. There is no legitimate purpose served by trying to “flush out” those government lawyers. None of them believe in Al Qaeda’s goals; they just believe in American justice.
Shame on those who are being demagogues on this issue. It is so simple to criticize lawyers who take on the least appealing clients in the world, but the American legal system requires it to be done, and it is why so much of the rest of the world admires us. In essence, those who are critical of lawyers who represented Guantanamo detainees are actually critical of the U.S. justice system as established by the Constitution.
So, the question is, will Charles Grassley’s legacy be that he started “Grassleyism”? I hope it doesn’t get that far.