The Next Time You Crack a Lawyer Joke, Think of These Attorneys



The Washington Post reported on the brave lawyers of Jose Padilla, the only American citizen seized on American soil who has been declared an enemy combatant. Padilla’s lawyers, Donna Newman and Andrew Pate, are court-appointed by the U.S. District Court in New York City to represent Padilla. They are paid $90 an hour, a fraction of their going rate for “paying” clients.

But Newman and Patel are not representing Padilla because they are going to get rich (obviously) and get more business as a result (not hardly) or become famous (not likely, at least not in a “good” way). They are doing it for you and me–fighting for our Sixth Amendment rights.

The Sixth Amendment, as given life by numerous important Supreme Court decisions, gives us the right to counsel in a criminal proceeding. Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi are being denied that right. Hamdi’s case has already gotten through the first appellate stage, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which easily stomped down his claim to have legal counsel. Padilla was appointed lawyers when he was being detained as a material witness in a government investigation into a “dirty bomb” plot. Under the enemy combatant rules adopted by the Pentagon, an enemy combatant has no right to a lawyer. But the judge ruled that Padilla should still be able to see his lawyers, even though Padilla was removed from the court’s jurisdiction and sent to a brig in South Carolina. The government appealed that ruling and the judge stayed his order that Padilla meet with his lawyers pending the decision by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which will likely be handed down this fall.

Padilla and Hamdi have not been charged with any crime; yet they are being held in prison for one reason: President Bush has named them “enemy combatants,” meaning that they are not entitled to the benefits of the civil justice system. Bush has the dubious distinction of being the only President in history to name Americans unlawful combatants. If you don’t think that is a scary precedent, think about what you would do if it happened to you. You would disappear into the black whole of nothingness. The government will not tell your lawyer or your family where you are. You may never be charged. You may very well die in government custody. You may be killed by the government. No one will ever know.

Padilla has not been allowed to communicate with his lawyers since he was whisked out of the federal criminal justice system and sent to the navy brig. His lawyers write him and send him copies of their motions and briefs, but they have no way of knowing if he receives them. They assume that he does not. In essence, Newman and Patel do not have a client. So why are they continuing to fight this battle? They do so because they are in the tradition of lawyers who believe in the right of representation for its own sake.

New York Attorney Lynne Stewart was charged with acts of terrorism that arose out of her court-appointed representation of Sheikh Abdel Ramen, convicted of complicity in the 1993 World Trade Center Bombings. Michael Tigar, one of the best lawyers in the country, was appointed by Judge Koeltl to represent Lynne Stewart. Tigar’s hourly rate is stratospheric; he is not defending Stewart for the money. He is defending the right to defend. He convinced Judge Koeltl to throw out the terrorism charges, a resounding defeat for John Ashcroft, who wanted to show defense attorneys a thing or two by charging Stewart.

Thousands of attorneys in the U.S. today give freely of their skill and expertise to represent indigent defendants. It is among the most gratifying work that I do. My clients often do not “appreciate” my efforts, but I am doing it for a cause greater than my client. Like Newman, Patel, Stewart, Tigar, and others like me, I am defending the right of the indigent and the unpopular to be defended.

Don’t you hope that if and when you are taken off the street by Ashcroft’s thugs or a proverbial gun held to your head as prosecutors did in the case of the Lackawanna Six that you have someone like Donna Newman or Andrew Patel willing to sacrifice their financial well-beings and reputations to defend you?

I do.

Think about them the next time you crack a lawyer joke.

ELAINE CASSEL practices law in Virginia and the District of Columbia, teachers law and psychology, and follows the Bush regime’s dismantling of the Constitution at Civil Liberties Watch. She can be reached at: ecassel1@cox.net

Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxemburg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving