Legal Ethics

ABA Prez Opposes Measure Authorizing Pentagon Probes of Gitmo Lawyers

The American Bar Association is opposing a provision in a House defense bill that authorizes the Pentagon inspector general to investigate lawyers for Guantanamo detainees for suspected misconduct that interferes with operations there.

The measure requires an investigation of military or civilian lawyers when there is a reasonable suspicion that a lawyer violated Pentagon policy, generated a “material risk” to a service member, violated a law within the inspector general’s jurisdiction, or “interfered with the operations” of the military prison at Guantanamo, according to the New York Times and the National Law Journal. Under the provision, investigators would have to report on their findings to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees within 90 days.

ABA President Carolyn Lamm opposed the measure in a letter sent to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, according to a press release. Lamm asserts that the Justice Department is the appropriate agency to investigate suspected legal wrongdoing by Guantanamo lawyers, rather than the Department of Defense.

Lamm wrote that the legislation “will compromise the professional independence of counsel and divert already starved defense resources from defending clients to defending the conduct, practices, actions and strategies of their lawyers.”

“The American system of justice depends on the essential role of lawyers in counseling their clients. This includes providing zealous and effective counsel, even to those accused of heinous crimes against this nation in the name of causes that evoke our contempt,” Lamm said.

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