Harvard Law School’s Dean Elena Kagan and more than 100 deans from the nation’s law schools denounced statements made by a Pentagon official urging corporations to pressure law firms to stop representing terrorism suspects. Last Thursday, Charles “Cully” Stimson, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs, called on corporate clients to avoid doing business with law firms that provide pro bono legal services to Guantanamo detainees.
Stimson stated on Federal News Radio that CEOs of corporations whose profits plummeted after 9/11 should think twice before using firms that represent suspected terrorists. Stimson went on to name several firms and call for a boycott. The Pentagon has since repudiated Stimson’s remarks.
Emily Spieler, the dean of Northeastern Law School, and Harold Koh, the dean of Yale Law School co-authored the letter which was signed by more than 100 of their colleagues and sent to newspapers and published on the internet.
“We, the undersigned law deans, are appalled by the January 11, 2007 statement of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles “Cully” Stimson, criticizing law firms for their pro bono representation of suspected terrorist detainees and encouraging corporate executives to force these law firms to choose between their pro bono and paying clients.
“As law deans and professors, we find Secretary Stimson’s statement to be contrary to basic tenets of American law. We teach our students that lawyers have a professional obligation to ensure that even the most despised and unpopular individuals and groups receive zealous and effective legal representation. Our American legal tradition has honored lawyers who, despite their personal beliefs, have zealously represented mass murderers, suspected terrorists, and Nazi marchers. At this moment in time, when our courts have endorsed the right of the Guantanamo detainees to be heard in courts of law, it is critical that qualified lawyers provide effective representation to these individuals. By doing so, these lawyers protect not only the rights of the detainees, but also our shared constitutional principles. In a free and democratic society, government officials should not encourage intimidation of or retaliation against lawyers who are fulfilling their pro bono obligations.
“We urge the Administration promptly and unequivocally to repudiate Secretary Stimson’s remarks.”