As the Pentagon prepares for the first military tribunals for defendants charged with terrorism, some lawyers and bar groups say the conditions for civilian defense lawyers are so restrictive that they might not participate in the process and thereby lend it legitimacy, the New York Times says.
The issue of whether lawyers should defend prisoners in proceedings at the naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, was raised by Lawrence S. Goldman of New York City, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), which has 11,000 members — including most of the nation’s prominent defense lawyers. Goldman said NACDL considered assembling a task force of experienced defense lawyers who would volunteer services to tribunal defendants. But the group is troubled by restrictions on issues like information gathering and the privacy of lawyer-client conversations. “We cannot advise any of our members to act as civilian counsel at Guantánamo,” he wrote. “The rules regulating counsel’s behavior are just too restrictive to give us any confidence that counsel will be able to act zealously and professionally.” NACDL will discuss the issue at its annual meeting next month.
Neal R. Sonnett, a Florida lawyer who is the chairman of the American Bar Association’s task force on treatment of enemy combatants, finds the rules “extremely troubling.”