Tuli Can't Stop Talking

These are just my thoughts on contemporary issues and an attempt to open up a dialogue.

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Location: New York City

A citizen who cares deeply about the United States Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Lynne Stewart Conviction and the American Public.

Every so often I am reminded that a very large portion of the American public doesn’t view the U.S. Constitution as something sacred. I am reminded that many in the American public believe that it only applies to those it likes and shouldn’t apply to those it doesn’t like. The Lynne Stewart case is a case in point.

Lynne Stewart repeatedly had clients that the general public found repugnant. Be they criminals or terrorists, her clients did not have public support. Quite often she was a court appointed attorney, as she was in the case at hand. But as any good defense attorney, she was diligent and zealously represented her clients, as she was required to do under the canons that cover responsible and ethical legal representation.

Now, any member of the American public would want this kind of representation from their defense attorney. One of the bedrocks of this representation is the attorney-client privilege. This privilege, and sixth amendment right, holds that communication and work product having to do with the representation of the client is undiscoverable and off limits to the government.

The Special Administrative Measures (SAM’s) that Attorney Stewart was forced to agree to in order to represent her court appointed client violate this constitutional right. A right that can only be waived by the client. These SAM's authorize the government to “monitor” attorney-client communications.

The SAM’s are regulations, not codified criminal laws. The melding of using evidence gathered under these regulations, and in the aftermath of 9/11, is overreaching of the worst kind and I believe will put all Americans who find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system at risk.

Lynne Stewart’s conviction will embolden prosecutors at every level to engage in even more prosecutorial misconduct.

So, to those Americans who think that it can’t happen to them, I say we have two of our fellow Americans (that we know of) in detention indefinitely without charges and another of our fellow Americans has just recently been returned to the United States from Saudi Arabia, where he was allegedly tortured. He faces a trial in which the court is being asked to entertain legal theories of the case that cannot be revealed to the defense.

So, also to the American public which thinks that these extraordinary measures are there to protect American citizens from the terrorists, I say what is to say that you will not be caught up in the ever expanding web and how can you be so sure? What charities have you contributed to? Who has come to your home for a party? Do you know what all of your accountant's clients are up to? Do you know what all of your relatives are up to? And how do you define fellow Americans?

First they rounded up the foreigners, now they have actually rounded up and convicted an American citizen whose job was to protect constitutional rights, in violation of the Sixth Amendment. Make no mistake about it, a defense attorney’s job is to protect our rights under the U.S. Constitution. Not just the rights of those we approve of, but everyone’s rights.

That so many of the American public are untroubled by this administration’s actions troubles me more than the fact that people in power seek absolute power and control. What troubles me most is that citizens would willingly give up their rights and the rights of their fellow Americans.

To read a very cogent and detailed account of the Lynne Stewart case you should read this article by Elaine Cassel.


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