Guantanamo and the Independence of the Judiciary
Sonnett, Neal R., Judicature
On January 11, 2007, Deputy Assistant secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs Charles D. "Cully" Stimson attacked many of the nation's largest and most prestigious law firms for providing pro bono representation to detainees being held in Guantanamo. In a radio interview, Stimson called it "shocking" that major law firms were providing free legal assistance to detainees in federal habeas corpus proceedings and said that "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 and representing reputable firms."
AJS immediately issued a statement condemning Stimson's attacks as "shameful and irresponsible" and a "blatant attempt to intimidate lawyers and their firms who are rendering important public service in upholding the rule of law and our democratic ideals" and called those lawyers "true heroes of the law." Most important, we stated that "efforts to deny detainees effective assistance of counsel, and to strip the courts of the ability to hear these important cases, are a threat to the independence of both the judiciary and the legal profession."
The national outcry from the organized bar, public interest groups, and congressional leaders was equally strong and swift, and within 24 hours, the Defense and Justice Departments had distanced themselves from Stimson. Six days later he apologized in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post. But within three weeks, the Defense Department announced-buried in a news release on another topic-that Stimson had resigned.
Stimson may be gone, but-perhaps to his everlasting regret-he has focused renewed attention on broader issues of efforts by this administration to deny meaningful judicial review to hundreds of Guantanamo detainees held for five years without any charges. …