"If the judges interpret the laws themselves, and suffer none else to interpret, they may easily make, of the laws, [a shredded] shipman's hose!" - King James I of England, around 1616.

“No class of the community ought to be allowed freer scope in the expression or publication of opinions as to the capacity, impartiality or integrity of judges than members of the bar. They have the best opportunities of observing and forming a correct judgment. They are in constant attendance on the courts. Hundreds of those who are called on to vote never enter a court-house, or if they do, it is only at intervals as jurors, witnesses or parties. To say that an attorney can only act or speak on this subject under liability to be called to account and to be deprived of his profession and livelihood by the very judge or judges whom he may consider it his duty to attack and expose, is a position too monstrous to be entertained for a moment under our present system,” Justice Sharwood in Ex Parte Steinman and Hensel, 95 Pa 220, 238-39 (1880).

“This case illustrates to me the serious consequences to the Bar itself of not affording the full protections of the First Amendment to its applicants for admission. For this record shows that [the rejected attorney candidate] has many of the qualities that are needed in the American Bar. It shows not only that [the rejected attorney candidate] has followed a high moral, ethical and patriotic course in all of the activities of his life, but also that he combines these more common virtues with the uncommon virtue of courage to stand by his principles at any cost.

It is such men as these who have most greatly honored the profession of the law. The legal profession will lose much of its nobility and its glory if it is not constantly replenished with lawyers like these. To force the Bar to become a group of thoroughly orthodox, time-serving, government-fearing individuals is to humiliate and degrade it.” In Re Anastaplo, 18 Ill. 2d 182, 163 N.E.2d 429 (1959), cert. granted, 362 U.S. 968 (1960), affirmed over strong dissent, 366 U.S. 82 (1961), Justice Black, Chief Justice Douglas and Justice Brennan, dissenting.

" I do not believe that the practice of law is a "privilege" which empowers Government to deny lawyers their constitutional rights. The mere fact that a lawyer has important responsibilities in society does not require or even permit the State to deprive him of those protections of freedom set out in the Bill of Rights for the precise purpose of insuring the independence of the individual against the Government and those acting for the Government”. Lathrop v Donohue, 367 US 820 (1961), Justice Black, dissenting.

"The legal profession must take great care not to emulate the many occupational groups that have managed to convert licensure from a sharp weapon of public defense into blunt instrument of self-enrichment". Walter Gellhorn, "The Abuse of Occupational Licensing", University of Chicago Law Review, Volume 44 Issue 1, September of 1976.

“Because the law requires that judges no matter how corrupt, who do not act in the clear absence of jurisdiction while performing a judicial act, are immune from suit, former Judge Ciavarella will escape liability for the vast majority of his conduct in this action. This is, to be sure, against the popular will, but it is the very oath which he is alleged to have so indecently, cavalierly, baselessly and willfully violated for personal gain that requires this Court to find him immune from suit”, District Judge A. Richard Caputo in H.T., et al, v. Ciavarella, Jr, et al, Case No. 3:09-cv-00286-ARC in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Document 336, page 18, November 20, 2009. This is about judges who were sentencing kids to juvenile detention for kickbacks.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

ACLU Executive Director: pardon the torturers to prove that torture will not be tolerated - a reality check is in order

I read, with total dismay and astonishment, an article in the New York Times by the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Anthony D. Romero calling on the U.S. President to issue "pre-emptive pardons" to the following 7 individuals:

  1. George J. Tenet - for authorizing torture at the C.I.A's black sites overseas;
  2. Donald H. Rumsfeld - for authorizing the use of torture at the Guantanamo Bay Prison;
  3. David S. Addington, John C. Yoo and Jay S. Bybee - for crafting the legal cover for torture;
  4. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney - for overseeing the torture.
Anthony D. Romero is a lawyer and the head of a law firm advocating for civil rights.

His take on why the "pre-emptive pardons" should be given to perpetrators of torture that led to unspeakable suffering of many human beings and death of some, while they were not only presumed innocent but was not even charged for any crimes are that only this way, somehow, the torture can be condemned as illegal.

Mr. Romero says the following: 

"An explicit pardon would lay down a marker, signaling to those considering torture in the future that they could be prosecuted".   

Now, Mr. Romero is a lawyer, and he clearly understands when saying something like that, that a pardon does not send anybody any such "signals". 

And, as another reader of Mr. Romero's warped-logic article suggested, in order to pardon, by law, you first have to criminally charge, prosecute and convict - and only then think about pardons.  No right of "pre-emptive pardons" exist and, if previous presidents violated that rule, there is an ancient legal maxim that violation of a law does not become the law, abusus non tollit usum

It describes in detail the Watergate scandal and how the pardons that Mr. Romero uses as precedents for pardons for the masterminds of torture and murder of innocent people at the hands of the government and states the following:

"By the scandal's conclusion, few contested that not only Nixon's top aides but Nixon himself had committed serious felonies - either in authorizing the break-in and related illegalities, or in obstructing the ensuing investigation.  Nonetheless, Nixon was ultimately shielded from all legal consequences thanks to the pardon granted by his handpicked vice president, Gerald Ford - who, it was widely believed, secured his appointment by agreeing to protect Nixon from prosecution", p. 18.

"Americans would condemn this sort of arrangement as cronyism and corruption of the sleaziest sort if they witnessed it in another country.  In the United States, however, political and media elites (though not the general public) widely agreed that immunizing the felony-committing president from the criminal justice system was the right thing to do", p. 18.

Quite a precedent you've picked, Mr. Romero.     

Mr. Romero acknowledges in his article that "The spectacle of the president’s granting pardons to torturers still makes my stomach turn."  Yet, he insists: "But doing so may be the only way to ensure that the American government never tortures again."

What kind of a warped and sick logic is that?  

How pre-emptive pardoning a torturer and murderer in public office will make sure that torture and murder in public office will never occur again?

Two things appear clear from Mr. Romero's article - Mr. Romero has proven the opposite to the point he was trying to achieve.   In my opinion, Mr. Romero has proven with his arguments that no accountability can be reached through "pre-emptive pardons" of the perpetrators, and there is no law supporting such a "pre-emptive pardon".

Second, but as important, it appears that Mr. Romero is definitely the wrong choice for his position of the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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