In Rising Numbers, Lawyers Head for Guantánamo Bay
WASHINGTON, May 29 - In the last few months, the small commercial air service to the naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has been carrying people the military authorities had hoped would never be allowed there: American lawyers.
And they have been arriving in increasing numbers, providing more than a third of about 530 remaining detainees with representation in federal court. Despite considerable obstacles and expenses, other lawyers are lining up to challenge the government's detention of people the military has called enemy combatants and possible terrorists.
A meeting earlier this month in New York City at the law firm Clifford Chance drew dozens of new volunteer lawyers who attended lectures from other lawyers who have been through the rigorous process of getting the government to allow them access to Guantánamo.
The increase in lawyers for Guantánamo detainees was set in motion last June when the Supreme Court ruled against the Bush administration and said the prisoners there were entitled to challenge their detentions in federal courts.
The rate at which lawyers have stepped forward for the task may be a reflection of the changing public attitudes about Guantánamo Bay and its mission.
"In the beginning, just after 9/11, we couldn't get anybody," said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a group based in New York that is coordinating the assigning of lawyers to prisoners. The earliest volunteers, Mr. Ratner said, were those who regularly handled death-penalty clients and were accustomed to representing the reviled in near-hopeless cases.
But in recent months, some of the nation's largest and most prominent firms have enlisted in the effort and devoted considerable resources to it, including Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale & Dorr; Clifford Chance; Covington & Burling; Dorsey & Whitney; and Allen & Overy.
"People are now eager to take this on," Mr. Ratner said. The law firms are bearing all the expenses, he said.
All white shoe law firms. This is going to burst open like a boil by next year.
posted by Steve @ 1:04:00 AM