Letters to the Editor

A Few Reservations

  • Print.


Your article regarding the trial of Saddam Hussein (“Rough Jus­tice,” May, page 34) may have touched on the legal issues, but the political implications were severe and should be mentioned.

Saddam persecuted not only Shiites, but also many Sunnis and Kurds. Had he been tried for the crimes involving tens of thousands of Kurds, or had he been tried for massacring anyone that opposed him from the Sunni tribes, or even for the mass graves that resulted from the 1991 coup, or the needless Iraq-Iran war, his trial might have led to national reconciliation by showing that he was receiving justice for pain that he had inflicted on multiple groups.

By limiting his trial to the Dujail incident, which was comparatively small in light of his other atrocities, the impression was given that the government was mainly interested in revenge for the murder of 100-plus Shiites who were killed there. An op­­portunity was lost for possible national reconciliation.

N. Peter Antone

Farmington Hills, Mich.

A special round of applause to the ABA Journal for attempting to get behind the scenes with the Ameri­can advisers to the court deciding Iraq v. Saddam Hussein. But you were unable to set aside your biases against the Muslim and Arab world, which were clearly evident by the slant of the article and the clever layout scheme.

The real story would have been about self-determination and the right of a people to choose their own leadership, as we have had the case to do here in the U.S. Perhaps we feel we are exporting democracy and the rule of law to other nations in the Middle East and anywhere else the American flag is not saluted properly. Yet what we are really doing is nothing more than taking our depleted uranium, atomic bombs and U.N. sanctions someplace else. We want people to respect us when all we have done is destroy them.

Unfortunately, we won’t be able to break out of the “us versus them” dichotomy until we all do a serious self-analysis.

Saddam was no doubt a brutal dictator. Yet he was nothing more than a cabdriver who rose through the ranks when backed by the CIA when he was doing our dirty work against Iran. When Saddam­ stopped playing “Simon Says” to the tune of my government, he was ousted.

Greenberg Traurig attorney Gregory Kehoe is quoted as saying, “It was just a given that the Iraqis were going to implement their law, and their law included the death penalty.”

This quote haunted me because I heard Kehoe speak with some degree of eloquence at a Hills­bor­ough County Bar function last Jan­u­ary. I simply ate my meal and thought how insensitive he was with his warped sense of the facts and distorted version of history. But what could I do? Stay silent and go back home, no different than the rest of the world. Another round of drinks to freedom in America!

Nadia B. Ahmad

Altamonte Springs, Fla.

Regarding the trial of Saddam: I was not terribly impressed with the “bravery” of American prosecutors who endorsed a capital penalty trial in which, according to several sources, the “people’s” witnesses were testifying with multiple layers of hearsay and from behind curtains; the defendant did not have adequate consultation with his lawyers; and the judges who rendered the verdicts, and the executioners who carried out their acts, had personal and/or political prejudices and vendettas against the accused.

Rough justice is no justice. The mistrial and execution of Saddam was a mockery to justice everywhere—and certainly to the Ameri­can justice system.

In conclusion, while I’m not impressed with prosecutors who sanction unlawful tribunals, I have enormous respect for great lawyers like Ramsey Clark who are unafraid to represent those with disfavored colors or views.

Nabil Chelico

Los Angeles

Taxing Consequences

The idea of patenting tax strategies (“Crisis Pending,” May, page 42) is a nifty one. I wonder if somebody could patent it! The bad news is, it suffers from a few limitations. Taxpayers have the right and obligation to pay the proper taxes on the activities they undertake for a business purpose; granting a third party a right to prevent a taxpayer from com­plying with the law or a court from im­posing a judgment reflecting the law would, I think, violate due process. Furthermore, tax consequences that are intended by the legislature can hardly be considered original ideas of people seeking patents.

The good news is, these limitations still leave a broad swath of patent­able tax strategies—namely, those that have no business purpose and have tax results contrary to legislative intent.

Daniel C. Waugh

Providence, R.I.

Thank you for “Crisis Pending.” Like Dennis Drapkin, I was “shock­ed and dismayed at the very idea that legal advice can be patented.” My surprise was not with the patent system, however, but with the legal profession. What happened to the idea of publishing good legal ideas to further the practice of law and raise one’s reputation as a way for growing a practice?

Patenting legal strategies is yet another example of the descent of the practice of law from a profession to a business. Ethics rules are the place to handle this issue, not the patent or tax laws.

We are better than this.

Matthew Topic


Seller Beware

Shelling Out for the Spot­­light,” May, page 32, provokes the usual response in us old-timers about how much the “profession” has become more of a “business.” We’re selling lawyers like refrigerators.

That thought, however, leads me to inject a word of caution when—in the words of the article’s subtitle—“firms pay big bucks to get on-air … attention.” Attorneys inclined to go in that direction should be aware that paying to get on the air is known in broadcasting law circles as “payola,” and if an attorney (or anyone else) pays or promises “any money, service or other valuable consideration … directly or indirectly … to the [radio or television] station” broadcasting such matter, section 317 of the Communications Act of 1934 and the rules of the Fed­eral Communi­ca­tions Com­mission require the station to announce that the broadcast was “paid for or furnished” by the sponsor.

The basic idea is that the public is entitled to know who is paying to get their attention, whether it be selling a product or an opinion. An announce­­­ment is not required when it is self-evident who the sponsor is. Showing my age again, when Bess Myerson was hawking Frigidaire refrigerators in the 1950s, it was not necessary for the network or stations to add a redundant “the preceding announcement was paid for by Frigidaire.”

But when a game show has prizes provided by various companies, you will often see (although perhaps not be able to read) a crawl at the end of the show that begins: “Pro­motional consider­ation fur­nished by … .” It is the broadcasting station’s responsibility under section 317 to obtain the information necessary to comply with the “sponsorship identification” requirement of the act, but it should make business, if not ethics, sense for any attorney selling himself or herself on the radio or TV not to participate in something unlawful in the process.

Roy R. Russo

Washington, D.C.

Remote Access

I enjoyed your may Life Audit column, “Vacation Base Camp,” page 60. For the past 10 years, I have been taking my family to the coast of Oregon for my working vacation. We spend a month in Ore­gon, three weeks of it at a house that we rent in Lincoln City. I take my laptop computer and hook up to the Inter­net via the broadband connection at the rented house. I use GoToMyPC to access my office computer and use IM for staff and attorney communications, and take tele­phone calls via our PBX system with the other party unaware that I am 2,000 miles to the west. My Kansas workday is usually done before noon in Oregon, leaving plenty of time to play with late-rising family. The time difference really works to my advantage, so long as I am willing to get up early, which is my habit anyway.

Unless I choose to tell the clients and other attorneys with whom I deal, they assume I am in my office in western Kansas. I am able to review all mail, pleadings and other documents via scanned and/or PDF and Word-formatted e-mail, and I do my CALR via Lexis. Fortunately, my clientele is of a nature that I don’t have to be physically present to counsel them, and my partners and associate can cover any emergency court appearances.

Thanks again for the interesting column.

John T. Bird

Hays, Kan.

An example to follow

The Youngest Clients,” April, page 56, presents an important and often overlooked topic—direct advocacy for children. As a student attorney ad litem for the Florida State University College of Law Children’s Advocacy Center, I see the need for children’s advocacy every day.

You mention the need to integrate services and communication between the dependency and delinquency courts, and note that Cali­fornia and other states are working to make that happen. Here in Florida’s 2nd Cir­cuit, it already has. Through the diligent efforts of Nikki Clark, family law division judge, we now have a Unified Family Court. Judge Clark presides over UFC at specified times each week in her courtroom, addressing families with multiple issues—dependency, delinquency, etc.

This method has fostered a more holistic approach to assisting these families and has streamlined the legal process. Overall, the UFC has been a great success and I hope other circuits will follow Judge Clark’s example. Children who are treated like they are important, and whose voices are heard, are much more likely to appreciate and respect the legal system. But they need our help to make that happen.

Rachelle-Marie Gentner

Tallahassee, Fla.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.