Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Creative Solutions

While Congress debates whether or not to go after the miscreants of the last administration, a non-governmental group has made a rather creative move. The Lawyers Guild has filed a complaint with the California Bar Association against one of the lawyers in the last administration who wrote an opinion justifying the use of "extreme interrogation" techniques.

From the Los Angeles Times:

In an attempt to win sanctions against a former top Bush administration official over brutal interrogations of prisoners at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, a lawyers group deployed a strategy Monday that worked against Presidents Nixon and Clinton.

Former Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes II is the first of several former policy makers the National Lawyers Guild wants reprimanded, suspended or disbarred for their roles in detainee abuse, said Carlos Villarreal, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area guild chapter that filed a complaint against Haynes with the California Bar Assn.

Haynes, now an attorney with Chevron Corp. in San Ramon, “breached his duty as a lawyer” in providing legal cover for U.S. soldiers and federal agents to use dogs, nudity, stress positions and other humiliating tactics to break down terror suspects, the guild alleged. ...

“It doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re a lawyer and you’re licensed and you violate licensing standards, your licensing jurisdiction will pursue it,” [Robert Hawley, deputy executive director of the 217,000-member state bar] said.

When the contents of the memos written by White House and hand-picked Justice Department lawyers recently surfaced, it became clear that the Bush administration wanted some cover for what was pretty clearly unlawful activity, both on a domestic and international basis. The memos were shoddily constructed, misinterpreted some judicial opinions, and totally ignored others. Most would have received failing grades had they been composed for a law school class. They weren't, however, designed to advise on the state of the law. They were cynically designed to shield administration officials from any culpability for the law-breaking.

The oath that a lawyer takes when being sworn in and granted a license is similar to most oaths taken by elected officials. The candidate affirms that he or she will uphold the Constitution and laws of the jurisdiction involved, and will not engage in the unethical behavior displayed by the creators of those memos. Violation of that oath can, and usually does, result in the loss of the privilege to practice law. The license is suspended or revoked. The meal ticket is shredded. The practitioner is disgraced.

The nice thing about the Lawyers Guild approach is that the Bar Association cannot just ignore the complaint with the "we need to move forward" excuse. Each complaint must be investigated and findings must be made public.

And here's even more good news:

A similar complaint is being prepared in Pennsylvania against former Justice Department lawyer John C. Yoo, now a UC Berkeley law professor, for his role in drafting the legal guidelines that approved enhanced interrogation techniques including waterboarding, which can bring a subject to the brink of drowning.

Maybe Congress and the current administration might be waffling, but some private citizens sure aren't.

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Anonymous Karin said...

Great idea. I love the Lawyer's Guild.

5:10 AM  
Anonymous larry, dfh said...

Truly great news. Leading by example.

7:35 AM  

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