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STATE BAR ASSOCIATION ISSUES STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ATTORNEYS WHO PREVIOUSLY REPRESENTED GUANTANAMO DETAINEES

New York State Bar Association President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City) issued the following statement supporting the ability of attorneys who previously in private practice represented detainees held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base to continue to serve in the U.S. Justice Department:
 
"The attacks on those U.S. Justice Department attorneys who represented Guantanamo Bay detainees reflect an unfortunate hostility to the fundamental American legal principle of the right to counsel. These attorneys should be respected for acting in the finest tradition of our profession to represent people - often pro bono - even when, in the words of our Codes of Professional Responsibility 'the client or cause is unpopular or the community action is adverse.'

"The right to counsel is an essential, constitutionally mandated component of due process and the rule of law. To attack those who fulfilled that constitutional imperative is to threaten the independence of the bar, while at the same time manipulating the outcome of future cases by attempting to deprive defendants of certain counsel. That there are Justice Department attorneys who understand the importance of these principles, even at the cost of their reputation or safety, should be of great comfort to all Americans. The New York State Bar Association supports in the strongest possible terms their continued work in the service of their country."

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The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, State Bar programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.