Keeping an Eye on Cully Stimson

The Washington Post in this great editorial took Cully Stimson to task Friday. Stimson is the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs.

" MOST AMERICANS understand that legal representation for the accused is one of the core principles of the American way. Not, it seems, Cully Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs. In a repellent interview yesterday with Federal News Radio, Mr. Stimson brought up, unprompted, the number of major U.S. law firms that have helped represent detainees at Guantanamo Bay."

"....Mr. Stimson proceeded to reel off the names of these firms, adding, '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.'"

Stimson hinted at nefarious connections, rather than a desire to do pro bono work, as the firms' motives:

Asked who was paying the firms, Mr. Stimson hinted of dark doings. "It's not clear, is it?" he said. "Some will maintain that they are doing it out of the goodness of their heart, that they're doing it pro bono, and I suspect they are; others are receiving monies from who knows where, and I'd be curious to have them explain that."

The WaPo editorial rightfully calls Stimson's comments "crude" and "offensive." The point is this:

"But it's offensive -- shocking, to use his word -- that Mr. Stimson, a lawyer, would argue that law firms are doing anything other than upholding the highest ethical traditions of the bar by taking on the most unpopular of defendants. It's shocking that he would seemingly encourage the firms' corporate clients to pressure them to drop this work. And it's shocking -- though perhaps not surprising -- that this is the person the administration has chosen to oversee detainee policy at Guantanamo."

The New York Times Saturday has this editorial castigating Stimson. It begins:

"No one who has followed President Bush's policies on detainees should be surprised when a member of his team scorns American notions of justice. But even by that low standard, the administration's new attack on lawyers who dare to give those prisoners the meager representation permitted them is contemptible."

Discussing the same Stimson Federal News Radio interview, the New York Times opines,

"The interview was a greatest-hits remix of Bush administration nonsense about Guantánamo, including Mr. Stimson's message to corporate executives that lawyers "are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line in 2001." The only terrorists at Guantánamo associated with 9/11 were transferred there recently after being held for years in secret C.I.A. prisons where no lawyer could enter." "Not only do we find Mr. Stimson's threats appalling, we differ with him about 9/11. The tragedy and crime of that day was that thousands of innocents were slaughtered -- not that it hurt some companies' profit margins. "

We all need to keep an eye on Cully Stimson.

Every person deprived of liberty or charged with a crime in the United States is entitled to competent counsel. If they can't afford counsel, counsel can be appointed. Under the Criminal Justice Act, these lawyers work for very reduced rates. But, Guantanamo is not in the United States, and the Government believes the right to free civilian court-appointed counsel does not apply to the detainees facing trial by military commission. The lawyers representing the Guantanamo detainees are mostly doing it pro bono, because the lawyers know it's the right thing to do. Large firms have allowed their associates to spend hundreds of hours on these cases, because they believe in the bedrock presumption of our criminal justice system, that all persons are presumed innocent until after trial, should a judge or jury declare them guilty.

The private lawyers and law professors representing the Guantanamo detainees are performing among the best work our profession has to offer. They do it to preserve the fairness of the criminal justice system, the system they work in every day.

Think of justice as a three-legged stool. The Judge is one leg, the prosecutor another and defense counsel is the third leg. If you overly weaken any one party's authority to try the case and perform their designated role, the stool will fall over and collapse. Our system would come crumbling down.

When two well-respected national newspapers declare the views of the Bush Adminstration's deputy supervisor of detainees "contemptible", we all should listen.

[Cross Posted at Huffington Post.]

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    somebody from his state of (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by virginia cynic on Sat Jan 13, 2007 at 11:40:51 AM EST
    bar admission can send a small note to the bar and then perhaps mr stimson can receive one of those buff letters with the red Confidential on it that marks a bar complaint, but then again it is folly to dream of ethical cocerns from these folks.

    jim (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by cpinva on Sat Jan 13, 2007 at 06:33:15 PM EST
    but I think well within his rights.

    actually, no, i think it was an egregious violation of both his legal code of ethics, and his govt employee code of ethics. it could also be perceived as a threat, which i believe is a criminal act. he doesn't have the "right" to commit a criminal act.

    But I fail to understand why the firms representung the terrorists should not be public knowledge.

    no one suggested they should be. in fact, their names, and the names of their firms, have been much in the news over the past few years. where have you been?

    i wonder how this guy feels about the attorneys representing mr. libby?

    Last I knew (none / 0) (#1)
    by roger on Sat Jan 13, 2007 at 06:36:47 AM EST
    Bringing the system in to disrepute is a disbarrable offense. Maybe this guy shouldnt be a lawyer anymore

    but you'll notice (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Sat Jan 13, 2007 at 06:54:54 AM EST
    there was nothing from the WSJ. i found this to be totally reprehensible, but not at all surprising, from a member of the current administration.

    i too am a gov't official, in an adversarial position. i deal with attorneys pretty much daily. while at times i might find them irritating, that tells me they're doing their job: representing their clients vigorously. i wouldn't have it any other way, it keeps everyone, including me, on their toes.

    there have been a few occasions, over the course of the past 20 odd years, that i felt an attorney wasn't doing his job well, or acting in the best interest of his/her client. fortunately, those instances have been rare. for the most part, my experiences with those members of the bar i've worked with have been excellent. we may not have always been in agreement, but the relationship was cordial and professional. i can't ask for much more than that.

    i was appalled by this clown's comments. apparently, he skipped his constitutional law class at george mason. he should be rebuked at the highest level, if not fired outright.

    Stimson has stirred the pot. (none / 0) (#3)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Jan 13, 2007 at 09:26:22 AM EST
    I will agree that Stimson's comments re who was paying them, etc., was over the top. His boss should box his ears. Soundly.

    His call for economic retaliation was wrong, but I think well within his rights.

    But I fail to understand why the firms representung the terrorists should not be public knowledge. If transparency is a goal for government, shouldn't it be for all concerned?

    And yes, I agree that a defense attorney is like David vs Golliath at any time... but they do have the NYT and 90% of the MSM to level the field.

    Straw Men (none / 0) (#4)
    by roy on Sat Jan 13, 2007 at 09:45:50 AM EST
    Who suggested that Stimson wasn't within his rights?

    Who suggested that the firms should be secret?


    The Junta (none / 0) (#5)
    by koshembos on Sat Jan 13, 2007 at 10:14:59 AM EST
    Kleiman at RBC calls the Cheney/Bush regime a junta; he is on the mark (no pun intended). This particular junta is lead by sergeants and not generals. We are a bona fida 3rd world country run by the latest bunch of hoodlums.

    Don't expect too much from this bunch.

    Why? (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by roger on Sat Jan 13, 2007 at 12:42:22 PM EST
    Do you have so little respect for sergeants?

    What do you expect in a totalitarian society? (none / 0) (#8)
    by Bill Arnett on Sat Jan 13, 2007 at 02:35:37 PM EST

    the appointment (none / 0) (#9)
    by Jen M on Sat Jan 13, 2007 at 02:43:39 PM EST
    of gutless bullies?

    And people who should never again have... (none / 0) (#11)
    by Bill Arnett on Sun Jan 14, 2007 at 12:40:38 PM EST
    ...the chutzpah to even UTTER the words:

    The Rule of Law.


    Stimson and Habeas Corpus (none / 0) (#12)
    by dnaimon on Sun Jan 14, 2007 at 04:06:25 PM EST
    If you are outraged by Stimon's comments, believe in habeas corpus and want to repeal the Military Commissions Act of 2006 check out:


    Join the project!