From the west coast comes an editorial from the San Francisco Chronicle asking if there are Too many -- or too few lawyers?
What eats at Charles Stimson, the Defense Department's assistant secretary for detainee affairs, is the free lawyering supplied by a string of the nation's top law firms. It's "shocking'' that these top-drawer practices offer pro bono advice to prisoners at the remote U.S. base on the southern tip of Cuba.And then, from the hallowed halls of Harvard and the pen of Charles Fried comes this:
That some of the law firms Mr. Stimson singles out represent large employers defending discrimination and disability suits, major corporations accused of price fixing, securities fraud and pollution is not because the right hand -- so to speak -- does not know what the left is doing, nor because these firms are major-league hypocrites. On the contrary, they act in the best traditions of the profession -- traditions that are ignored in today's China or Putin's Russia.We'll never know what pushed Mr. Stimson to his utterance, but Professor Fried makes a guess:
It is the pride of a nation built on the rule of law that it affords to every man a zealous advocate to defend his rights in court, and of a liberal profession in such a nation that not only is the representation of the dishonorable honorable (and any lawyer is free to represent any person he chooses), but that it is the duty of the profession to make sure that every man has that representation.
And the hapless Mr. Stimson may also have fallen victim to that lawyers' occupational disease, Acquired Conviction Syndrome. It is too bad that lawyers in this country feel bound not only to submit the best possible arguments for their clients -- virtuous or deplorable -- but also to stump for them in the press, before legislative bodies and in professional organizations. Debate in the American Bar Association and American Law Institute, for instance, has been degraded in recent years by their members carrying their representation of their clients' interest into fora in which their best independent expert judgment is asked for. How unfortunate that in this country we have plaintiffs' lawyers and defendants' lawyers, lawyers who represent only unions and others who represent only management. One looks with nostalgia at the British bar, where barristers will prosecute one day and defend the next.Now, who's hammering him from the heartland?
It may just be that Mr. Stimson is annoyed that his overstretched staff lawyers are opposed by highly trained and motivated elite lawyers working in fancy offices with art work in the corridors and free lunch laid on in sumptuous cafeterias. But it has ever been so; it is the American way. The right to representation does not usually mean representation by the best, brightest and sleekest. That in this case it does is just an irony -- one to savor, not deplore.