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Guantanamo Bay/Detainees

Federal Judge’s ‘Scathing’ Opinion Blocks Gitmo Rule Change Restricting Lawyer-Client Contacts

Posted Sep 7, 2012 7:42 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has blocked a rule change that required lawyers to abide by a different, more restrictive set of contact rules if their Guantanamo Bay clients no longer had pending cases.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said the rule change giving more authority to the Guantanamo Bay commanding officer in such cases is “an illegitimate exercise of executive power.” News outlets with a report include the New York Times, the Associated Press, the Washington Post and The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.

The Times calls Lamberth’s opinion “scathing” and notes he described the government arguments with words such as “untenable,” “quite preposterous,” “even less persuasive,” and “does not pass the smell test.”

The government had argued that detainees without pending cases were not subject to a court order governing lawyer-client contacts. Instead, a different set of rules applied in which lawyers’ client meetings would be subject to the discretion of the commanding officer, and their access to classified information would be limited.

"The old maxim 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' would seem to caution against altering a counsel-access regime that has proven safe, efficient and eminently workable," Lamberth said.

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