John Adams and Charles "Cully" Stimson

Military law expert Donald G. Rehkoff, for whom I have the utmost respect, being familiar with his work, had this to say on a message board today about Charles "Cully" Stimson, the Bush deputy for detainee affairs who made reprehensible comments about lawyers who represent the detainees. (He has graciously given me permission to reprint it.)

First, he reminds us of President John Adams, quoting from Key Figures in Public Trials:

John Adams, in his old age, called his defense of British soldiers in 1770 "one of the most gallant, generous, manly, and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country." That's quite a statement, coming as it does from perhaps the most underappreciated great man in American history.

The day after British soldiers mortally wounded five Americans on a cobbled square in Boston, thirty-four-year-old Adams was visited in his office near the stairs of the Town Office by a Boston merchant , James Forest. "With tears streaming from his eyes" (according to the recollection of Adams), Forest asked Adams to defend the soldiers and their captain, Thomas

Adams understood that taking the case would not only subject him to criticism, but might jeopardize his legal practice or even risk the safety of himself and his family. But Adams believed deeply that every person deserved a defense, and he took on the case without hesitation. For his efforts, he would receive the modest sum of eighteen guineas.

As for consequences to Stimson, Don writes:

Stimson's "advertised" also as being a Navy Reserve JAG. As an officer, he's also taken an "oath" very similar to the one all attorneys take, "to support and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic." In addition to his ethical delicts, he has conducted himself in a manner "unbecoming an officer and a gentleman," a crime under 10 USC 933. He is unworthy of being an officer as well.

The Pentagon already is distancing itself from Stimson:

"Mr. Cully Stimson's comments in a recent media interview about law firms representing Guantanamo detainees do not represent the views of the Defense Department or the thinking of its leadership," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

Cully is but one cog in the Administration's wheel of injustice at Guantanamo. Let's try to keep our eye on the larger issue -- that for five years, the Bush Administration has kept people imprisoned without a trial and without a reliable basis to believe that the vast majority of them are terrorists.

Just as bad, the Bush Administration has refused, despite Supreme Court law to the contrary, to allow the detainees to raise challenges in our federal courts. It pushed Congress to pass a law obliterating habeas corpus for the detainees.

These are the larger issues behind Cully's comments. Regardless of what happens to him, the Administration must not be let off the hook for its unfair, unjust and un-American treatment of the detainees.

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    Forcing Hamdan lawyer to retire shows Navy's view (none / 0) (#1)
    by jerry on Sat Jan 13, 2007 at 06:49:30 PM EST
    Does the Navy and Defense Department agree with Stimson?  Ask former Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, the Navy lawyer that was forced into retirement as his reward for beating Bush in Hamdan at the Supreme Court.

    what was it, about......... (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Sun Jan 14, 2007 at 01:58:24 AM EST
    the face of evil being banal? i have no idea what this guy looks like, probably doesn't stick out of a crowd. and yet, he fits right in with this whole corrupt administration.

    his mother is probably so proud! :)

    Here's a recent and an older photo (none / 0) (#3)
    by Randinho on Sun Jan 14, 2007 at 11:56:40 AM EST
    Recent photo here and older photo here.

    Totally despicable and completely unAmerican. (none / 0) (#4)
    by Bill Arnett on Sun Jan 14, 2007 at 12:14:26 PM EST

    Irony Alert (none / 0) (#5)
    by scribe on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 10:08:36 AM EST
    As Josh Marshall points out over at Talking Points Memo, Scooter Libby is being represented by the law firm of Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton and Garrison, which also happens to represent some of the detainees.

    One has little doubt he'll find some sophistry which permits him to continue to be represented by this firm while not denouncing Stimson.

    scibe (none / 0) (#6)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 10:44:49 AM EST
    Not to be picky, but I see no evidence that Libby has either agreed or disagreed with Stimson's comments.

    So why the nasty comment? Do you also kick dogs and drown kittens?



    You managed to really chap me this time. (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by scribe on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 12:39:15 PM EST
    You transmogrify into a propensity to kick dogs and drown kittens my comment on the distinct irony of Scooter Libby, described by uber-conservative Deadeye Dick Cheney as one of "the finest people I've known", simultaneously retaining counsel to defend him, when that counsel's same firm is achieving significant results on behalf of the same unfortunate prisoners of war Deadeye Dick (and his minions - including Scooter when he was still working for Deadeye) have just as steadfastly sought to torture and destroy in Gitmo (and secret locations elsewhere).

    Let's be serious - Stimson would never have been appointed to the position he's in, if he were not suitably vetted for ideological purity and rigid adherence to the Republican party line, especially on the issuse pertaining most directly to the job he would hold.  That the "Defense Department is disavowing" what he said is, in the main, irrelevant.  He won't be fired for saying it.  More importantly, what he said is commonly held opinion in wingunt circles.  Further, his was not just an idle mouth popping off.  Rather,  it was part of a deliberate public relations strategy and an extremely well coordinated one at that.  

    The logical inconsistencies and, a fortiori, ironies in your comment would be hilarious if not for the sad context in which we find ourselves.  These same inconsistencies and ironies work on more levels than I can count.  

    Sadly, though, IMHO the ironies and inconsistencies in your and others' arguments posed about defense counsel in general and about Gitmo and PW counsel stem not from deliberate humor, but rather from a lack of intellectual or analytical rigor.  If one is to say Scooter deserves the best defense money can buy (as he does), then the only logically and morally consistent response is to say "so do the poor unfortunates who find themselves being fed to the maw of the criminal justice system stateside, or the kangaroo drum-head tribunals the government has set up to facilitate some show-trial executions for public consumption here and, more importantly, overseas."  (N.B.  I say "more importantly overseas" because the only rational explanations for our government snuffing PWs are (a) show how tough they are in a schoolyard-bully way, and (b) create more terrists so as to facilitate more war profiteering and the continuance of "war-time" infringements on civil liberties here.

    Further, I believe you have little conception of the importance of pro bono work in the legal profession and, for that matter, the historical antipathy of the bar toward excessive commercialization of the profession.  I know, many will say "you gotta be kidding" when I say "historical antipathy of the bar toward excessive commercialization", but I'm quite serious.  It wasn't until the last 10 or 15 years that the whole idea of "business success of the firm before the profession of lawyering" took solid hold.  If one looks into the history of the profession in England, whence our legal system came, it was originally the case that defense lawyers were forbidden (by tradition) from seeking payment for their services.  This was seen as an indication of the lawyers' belief in the strength of their case and of their taking the case because of their interest in furthering justice - not because they needed money or charged for their services.  Rather, the money would be slipped into a pocket in the back of their robes (where they couldn't see the money coming in and were therefore innocent of pecuniary motive);  as I understand it, the function of clerks in the lawyers' chambers was to both procure cases and deal with issues of payment.  Lawyers stuck to lawyering and seeking justice.

    While these rules and traditions have pretty much gone by the board, there still remain  ethical rules, for example,  requiring fees to be reasonable,  prohibiting a lawyer from soliciting a gift from a client (or someone close to a client).  

    Moreover, there exists an ethical rule affirmatively requiring all lawyers to do pro bono work.  One version (RPC 6.1) states:  

    "Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to render public interest legal services.  A lawyer may discharge this responsibility by providing professional services at no fee or a reduced fee to persons or limited means...."  

    Nor, under RPC 6.2, is a lawyer allowed to decline a court appointment to represent someone except under very limited circumstances - the person or cause is so repugnant to the lawyer that it would make it impossible to represent the client, the work would put an unreasonable fnancial burden on the lawyer, or the lawyer would have to violate another ethical rule.

    I and a former law partner had to decline  and withdraw from a clearly-defensible murder case we'd already started on when our investigation made apparent to us that we'd have to violate one or more ethical rules to continue.  We first consulted with a specialist in legal ethics, and all we could reveal to the Court was "we cannot continue as defense counsel.  Our legal ethics specialist told us we cannot even tell you why, other than it would likely put us in ethical trouble if we stayed or if we told you."

    So, don't go off on pro bono legal services.  We lawyers are required to provide them.

    And, no, I don't kick dogs nor do I drown kittens.  FWIW, I have as a pet a rescued stray dog - an elderly setter - and she is warm, dry, well-fed and very happy.  At least I think so;  her tail wags madly when she sees me.  FWIW, and knock on wood, I wind up spending more on her health care than on my own.


    No answer. (1.00 / 1) (#10)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 06:40:08 PM EST
    Your original comment was:

    One has little doubt he'll find some sophistry which permits him to continue to be represented by this firm while not denouncing Stimson.

    My comment was:

    Not to be picky, but I see no evidence that Libby has either agreed or disagreed with Stimson's comments.

    So why the nasty comment? Do you also kick dogs and drown kittens?


    Now, did you, or did you not answer my question?

    And the answer is, you did not.

    BTW - In another post I have already noted my distaste for Stimson's comments.

    BTW - I have no idea as to all the writing re the value of pro bono services, you can find nothing negative about them in any of my writings.

    Were you giving us a group lecture?

    So I must assume that, when asked to demonstrate something specific, you have used it as an excuse for  broad gauge attack on the administration in general.

    Good o and glad to be of service.

    And I am pleased to learn that you do not kick dogs and/or drown kittens. I didn't really think you did, but based on some of your comments about the political opposition it was sometimes hard to tell.



    just for the record (none / 0) (#9)
    by scribe on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 04:41:54 PM EST
    Scooter used to work for, and is currently being represented by another firm, Dechert LLP, f/k/a Dechert Price & Rhoads, of Philadelphia, which also represents PWs and similar detainees.  As well as corporate clients.

    More irony, I suppose?


    Wonderfully stated, Scribe, but does this mean... (none / 0) (#8)
    by Bill Arnett on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 01:15:49 PM EST
    ...you don't blow up frogs with firecrackers like "some people's" hero, mr boosh? ;-)

    If anyone can save this country from further loss of liberty, the destruction of our military, end domestic spying and the amassing of databaseS of dubious application, and restore the safeguards of constitutional imperatives, IT WILL BE ATTORNEYS that will lead the way and provide the compelling case that needs to be made to reverse the damage done to our country and restore America's guiding principles.

    I admire your restraint in responding to the totally specious, repellant, and repugnant comment above.