January 19, 2007

Pro Bono, Pro Terrorist

by PG

I meant to write something about the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs making bizarre comments about law firms that represent Gitmo detainees, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, of all surprising places, pretty much covers it, so I'll just provide the relevant links: Stimson's apology , Washington Post editorial, NYTimes article, NYTimes editorial, Gonzales complaining that it's the defense attorneys' fault, not the administration's, that justice is taking so long.

I have heard the suggestion that the firms are benefiting from this pro bono work by getting business from terrorist-friendly Saudis. Under this claim, Stimson's "others are receiving monies from who knows where, and I'd be curious to have them explain that" remark is defensible because firms chose this particular cause in order to curry favor with those who want to see terrorists go unpunished. This frankly strikes me as implausible, given how prominent most of these firms already are; if we think the big players actually notice such things, shouldn't former Bush Administration figure Scooter Libby have avoided Paul Weiss? Shouldn't representation of these allegedly terrorist-friendly Saudis in the 9/11 victims' suit have gone to the Gitmo defenders instead of firms like Baker Botts? Certainly there is overlap between Saudi-representing firms and those with associates in the Guantanamo Bar Association (Wilmer*, Fulbright), but that seems inevitable given the prominence of the firms on both lists. I stick to my own explanation that the choice of Gitmo pro bono has more to do with firms' internal culture -- what their associates find interesting -- and their desire to look cool to recruits who might otherwise feel a pang about working for corporate America. Nothing turns on a law school student like the abstract concept of basic due process, divorced from the less pleasant aspects of, say, a death row inmate who's already had his day in court. Several of them.

* Wilmer actually is representing guys who weren't even picked up in Afghanistan or Iraq, but in Bosnia on charges of trying to blow up the U.S. Embassy there.

January 19, 2007 12:37 PM | TrackBack
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