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Comment to NYT Editorial ‘Are You Now, or Have You Ever Been, a Lawyer?’ (NYT Editorial, 03/08/2010)

March 8, 2010

In response to

‘Are You Now or Have You Ever Been a Lawyer?

New York Times | March 8, 2010:

It is impossible for a thinking person who embraces the values of the Bill of Rights not to agree with the views expressed in this editorial. Lawyers must be free — even encouraged — to take up the cause of deeply unpopular defendants. Anything else would equate to government-sanctioned lynching.

And yet there is a troubling problem related to this one on which the editorial is unfortunately silent: the abhorrent abuse of similar protections by John Yoo et. al. in their production of the infamous ‘torture memos’ for their “clients” (one of whom was, not coincidentally, Ms. Cheney’s father).  In that case, White House lawyers were able to utilize the very same so-called “ethics”, to prostitute both their profession and the Constitution at the direction of the occupants of the Executive branch at the time.  ironically, in final determination of the propriety of their behavior (made by their co-professionals) was that they had done no wrong for the simple and elegant reason that nobody had ever bothered to enact a rule that authoring a legal opinion on demand and with obvious contempt for the governing laws is actually “unethical.”

And so we find ourselves in the immensely uncomfortable position of using the same body of rules to protect both ardent constitutional heroes and those who committed grievous offenses to the Bill of Rights and the laws passed by its duly-authorized legislative branch. Until the legal profession acts to resolve that clear affront to ethical hygiene, we’re all at risk of being hamstrung by clever, determined sophists such as those who infest the Cheney/Kristol cabal.

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