The Bar Association of San Francisco Requests a Disciplinary Investigation of Charles D. Stimson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs
The request for investigation stems from comments made by Stimson, a member of the State Bar of California, during a radio interview on January 11, 2007, in which he said it was "shocking" that major law firms represent detainees and suggested that the firms would have to "choose between representing terrorists" and their mainstream clients. This interview was widely understood by attorneys, law faculty, members of the press and the public to be an attempt to intimidate, or threaten with economic reprisals, the lawyers currently involved in the representation of Guantanamo Bay detainees and to deter others from taking on similar representations in the future.
BASF President Nanci Clarence, partner at Clarence & Dyer, LLP, summed up the BASF board's view saying, "Mr. Stimson's comments essentially call for corporations to boycott law firms which represent detainees at Guantanamo. Not only is this repugnant to our core values, it runs counter to our duty to represent the defenseless and the oppressed."
Annette Hurst, BASF board member and shareholder at Heller Ehrman LLP, spearheaded the resolution calling for a state bar investigation of Stimson. She states, "Charles Stimson's comments, acting under color of government authority, calling for an economic boycott of law firms involved in the representation of Guantanamo detainees plainly violated fundamental precepts of the legal profession and were contrary to justice. Law firms already take considerable economic risk in devoting the efforts of their attorneys to such work, and to seek to deter them further by calling for an economic boycott of such firms is reprehensible. Lawyers must either refuse to carry out the objectives of the client where those objectives are unlawful or face the penalty for doing so. Today we have sought to uphold the integrity of the profession by voting to request that the State Bar of California investigate this incident."
The BASF board also voted to co-sponsor an American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service Report to the House of Delegates, which "calls upon governmental representatives to support the provision of pro bono representation, even when perceived to be contrary to government interests or current popular opinion." The report also "calls upon governmental representatives to immediately remedy any acts of intimidation designed to thwart the provision of pro bono assistance."
Clarence continued, "BASF is proud to have members who have taken on the representation of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Lawyers who take on representation of unpopular clients, especially in criminal cases, should be saluted for their service to our justice system, not attacked by government officials. By disparaging law firms representing Guantanamo detainees, Stimson's remarks not only are an affront to core American values, they appear to offend the ethical rules of the State Bar of California. We think the state bar should investigate that conduct."