Statement of ABA President Lamm Re: Justice Department Lawyers’ Representation of Detainees
WASHINGTON, D.C., Mar. 5, 2010 — Individuals and organizations conducting a witch hunt in order to name names of Department of Justice lawyers who earlier represented Guantanamo detainees are showing a profound disregard for a fundamental tenet of our justice system and our Constitution: that anyone who faces loss of liberty has a right to legal counsel.
Lawyers have an ethical obligation to uphold that principle and provide representation to people who otherwise would stand alone against the power and resources of the government — even to those accused of heinous crimes against this nation in the name of causes that evoke our contempt.
The American people understand this obligation, and the corollary principle stated in rule 1.2(b) of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct that “A lawyer’s representation of a client does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.” Impugning the character of lawyers who have sought to protect the fundamental rights of unpopular clients is a divisive and diversionary tactic.
Instead of charged political rhetoric, we should move forward — adhering to due process and rule of law — principles that continue to make our country a beacon before the rest of the world.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.