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ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm Opposes Measure Authorizing Department of Defense Inspector General to Investigate Guantanamo Detainees’ Lawyers

Cites Chilling Effect on Defense, Justice Department Authority Over Inquiries

Citing “the dependence of the justice system on lawyers providing ‘zealous and effective counsel,’” the _ is calling on Congress not to include a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 directing the inspector general of the Department of Defense to investigate lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees.

In a letter sent today to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm said 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 provision was included in the bill as reported out of the House Armed Services Committee Friday.

“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,” said Lamm.  Lawyers “who engage in inappropriate conduct or counsel a client to engage in conduct that is criminal or fraudulent are subject to the disciplinary authority of the jurisdiction(s) in which they are admitted to practice,” she added, noting the Department of Justice is the appropriate agency to investigate and prosecute allegations of legal wrongdoing, not the Department of Defense.

A full copy of the Senate letter will be posted here.  A similar letter is being sent to all Members of the House of Representatives in advance of a vote.

Additional background or interviews available upon request.