Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Lynne Stewart Verdict -- Terry Gilbert: "It is an ominous sign for the future."

The Cleveland Indy Media Center has "Interview with Terry Gilbert In Response to the Lynne Stewart Guilty Verdict" by elle ross:

Cleveland Indymedia Center interviews renowned Cleveland Attorney Terry Gilbert in response to the guilty verdict in the Lynne Stewart trial. The National Lawyers Guild condemns the message the government is sending to defense lawyers who choose to represent unpopular clients. After deliberating for 13 days, a jury convicted Lynne Stewart, veteran civil rights attorney.
Terry Gilbert Biography
Interview with Cleveland Attorney Terry Gilbert regarding the Lynne Stewart guilty verdict. 2/15/04
elle ross = ER

ER:What are you initial thoughts with the guilty verdict in the Lynne Stewart Trial?

TG:Well, I think it's disturbing because the relationship between a lawyer and a client should be held with great sacredness in our justice system. The fact that she might have echoed some positions to her lawyer that her client expressed certainly should not be accepted as providing material support to terrorism. I think that the way it was spun was successfully done because of the prosecution because of the climate of fear that exists in this country that anybody who could even be perceived to be helping somebody who is a terrorist regardless of their role, in this case being a lawyer, should not be considered to be afforded protection under our law. I think that is scary and alarming.

ER:The National Lawyers Guild has stated with the verdict of this case the government is bent on intimidating attorneys from providing representation to unpopular clients. That is similar to what you were just saying. Do you agree with this?

TG:yeah I think it does. I don't think that lawyers in general, even criminal defense lawyers are breaking down doors to represent people who are being investigated for terrorism-related crimes, but those few who have been committed to the principal that everyone deserves a defense, a vigorous defense, may think twice before they decide to represent somebody knowing that every move you make, every discussion you have with your client, every strategy decision you may develop could be under scrutiny by the government. This is very intimidating. It is an ominous sign for the future.

ER:In your career you have represented what is termed unpopular clients. Do you think this effects you personally or how do you feel this may effect attorneys in general?

TG:I am pretty solid in my career, it is probably winding down at this point. So I am not going to waiver in my principals at this point. I don't feel intimated by the government. But I feel bad for the younger lawyers who are starting out who need to uphold the principals of zealous advocacy. I am wondering about those people who have young families, who are looking toward building their careers in law may think it's not worth it to get involved in this kind of dilemma. You know, we always are concerned about the government snooping in regarding our relationship with our clients particularly with respect to who is paying fees and that kind of thing. You know, the mob lawyers were always being intimidated by the government because of where money was coming from. So this is nothing new. But now it's a whole different scope of scrutiny and monitoring. This war on terrorism has so many tentacles of consequences, and now we have to worry about the attorney client relationship. Now, maybe Lynne Stewart, who is a firebrand lawyer, who I know by the way, and who has stood up against the government for many years and is not afraid to put herself at risk, maybe she did some things in this case that might have been done more discreetly and not broadcast to the world, but I don't think that takes away from what may be the insidious scope of the investigation against her. Had she had just represented somebody else they probably wouldn't even have cared, but because she was representing a high profile client they have made an example out of her.

ER: How do you think the Lynne Stewart case will effect a citizens 6th amendment right to an attorney?

TG:Well, I think it drives to wedge, in some sense, between the lawyer and the client. Because if the lawyer wants to feel comfortable confiding in a confidential manner with his or her lawyer, knowing that the government may be watching what goes on between the lawyer and the client, what communications take place, whether in the open area or in the prisons, they may not be willing to put their trust in the lawyer. And that's a scary proposition.