Notwithstanding that the profession of attorney at law is greatly maligned, oftimes with good reason, among the vast bulk of attorneys there is a recognition of the basic duties of those privileged to practice law. Among those duties is an ethical requirement to uphold the law, as well as defend the Constitution.
To that end, an attorney may not give any advice to his or her client. They are bound to give well reasoned advice, based upon the laws, as well as their ethical duties as an officer of the Court. To that end an attorney representing a husband in a divorice proceeding may not advise his or her client to hire a hitman for $5,000 to kill their spouse, even though it would save the client $35,000 in legal fees, as well as the half of the marital estate, soon to be divided.
That, class, would be unethical.
So it was reported today in the New York Times, in an article by Scott Shane, that a legal ethics complaint was filed today against a dirty dozen of Bush Administration attorneys, including 3 former Attorney's General, in connection with the roles they played in assisting the former occupants of the White House to justify and implement torture as a policy of the United States of America.
Bravo. At last, somebody standing up for the more besmirched than ever name of the profession. Thank you, Velvet Revolution, the group that is bringing the complaint.
Among these twelve attorneys are John C. Yoo, author of the most damning memos, his former boss and present Federal Judge with a lifetime appointment, Jay S. Bybee, as well as former AG's Alberto Gonzalez, John Ashcroft, Michael Mukasey, and in addition a few superstars from the Pentagon and White House: Douglas J. Feith and David S. Addington.
You know, it was with the help of many lawyers that the fascist regimes of Europe took power and committed atrocities, giving the actors legal cover for their heinous acts. And it is the responsibility of the profession to stand up to such requests from the powerful, especially when what is sought is how to circumvent laws in place for our protection from the powerful.
It was the duty under the law for the Office of Legal Counsel, where Mr. Yoo served when he wrote his repugnent memorandums at the supervision of Mr. Bybee, to advise the President as to what was and was not legal; what was and was not permissible under the law.
In this case, the laws in question were the Geneva Conventions, the Conventions Against Torture, as well as domestic American laws prohibitting torture. This does not mention, of course, the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments.
At the behest of their terrified, yet sadistic masters, Mr. Yoo and Mr. Bybee, among others, issued legal opinions justifying and permitting torture. This was in direct contravention of their duties as attorneys and officers of the Court, as such acts were patently against the law.
This is not opinion. This is fact, just as true as saying 2 + 2 = 4. It is never sometimes 5, even if terrorism is involved.
To that end, each and every licensed attorney admitted to the Bar who played a role in formulating these unlawful and disgusting opinons, who did not resign when asked to render them, and played a role in either implementing torture or giving legal cover to do so, should thusly be disbarred as they are clearly lacking in the most basic ethical necessities to be bestowed the privilege of being called an attorney.
The legal profession has more than enough black eyes, most of them self inflicted. This one time, when it really counts, the profession must stand up for itself and proclaim that these enablers of terrible criminal acts are not fit to be counted among its members.