Jan 2007
Defense Department and Wall Street Journal Declare War on the American Justice System
Last week, a senior attorney at the Department of Defense suggested that corporate clients should cease doing business with law firms whose attorneys provide pro bono services to Guantanamo detainees. In a radio interview, Charles D. Stinson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, listed 14 law firms whose attorneys are representing detainees, and encouraged corporate C.E.O.s to make the law firms "choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms." Mr. Stinson also insinuated that the law firms were being paid by enemies of America, when in reality, they are doing the work for free. The Wall Street Journal joined in this attack, with editorial board member Robert L. Pollock listing the law firm names on the paper's editorial page, and quoted an unnamed "senior U.S. official" as saying, "Corporate C.E.O.'s seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists."

Mr. Stinson is an attorney, and the Wall Street Journal is one of the nation's respected newspapers. What both attorney and newspaper should understand is that the American justice system is based on the adversarial system, whereby the truth is determined by each party represented by legal counsel advocating the party's position. To say that particular types of criminal defendants should not have attorneys, or more accurately, should not have good attorneys, and to threaten the livelihood of those attorneys who offer their services, is an attack on the legal system itself.

Mr. Stinson is in all likelihood a political appointee, and writing letters to President Bush will achieve nothing. However, informing the Wall Street Journal that its attack will hurt
its own bottom line may make the paper think twice the next time its editorial board considers working to undermine our legal system. I sent the email letter below to Bill Grueskin, the Wall Street Journal's Managing Editor. I suggest you do the same.

Bill Grueskin
Managing Editor
The Wall Street Journal

Dear Mr. Grueskin:

I have been a subscriber to the Journal in the past, and was considering subscribing again. Not now, and not ever. Robert L. Pollock suggesting that corporations should drop law firms who do pro bono work for detainees is disgusting. Of course, there would be much wailing and gnashing of teeth if a suggestion were made that corporate defendants should not be allowed to have attorneys. However, Mr. Pollock seeks to punish those lawyers who offer their services to a different type of criminal defendant. In other words, you support the adversarial system as long as it is applied only to "people like you." The adversarial system is the foundation of our justice system. It only works when both sides have good legal counsel, no matter who the parties are. Since your organization does not believe that, and indeed, attacks the system itself and those who make it work, I pledge to never subscribe to your paper again, and will encourage others to not do so as well.
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