Socialist ViewPoint and analysis for working people

January 2005 • Vol 5, No. 1 •

An Injury to Lynne Stewart is an Injury to All

By Michael Tigar

This country’s history is dotted with major political trials. The trial of Lynne Stewart is one of those. This prosecution is an attack on the right of people to have courageous and effective legal assistance and defense. It is an attack on the independence of the legal profession – at least on that portion of the profession that stands up against repression.

Being a witness in your own defense is one of the most difficult tasks that a person can be called upon to do. For parts of nine court days, Lynne Stewart sat on the witness stand and told the jurors and the world what good and brave lawyering is all about. Under hostile, and often sarcastic and angry, cross-examination by the prosecutor, Lynne kept the message strong and clear. I have been trying cases for forty years, and I have never seen it done better.

Lynne Stewart did not choose to become an iconic figure in the struggle for human rights. The government thrust this role upon her by its unprecedented, invasive and ultimately brutal decision to put her on trial. Since her arrest in April 2002, this case has tested her resolve and that of her family and friends. They have met the test, but this battle has been wearing on everyone.

This administration wants to silence every voice and crush every movement that opposes its exercise of power. It seeks this goal by the exercise of power, and by repetition of the most outrageous lies. Lynne Stewart’s case is supposedly about terrorism. Yet there is no evidence at all that any violent act was ever carried out in furtherance of these trumped-up conspiracies.

The lie that is this case is being told over and over in order to cover up a bigger lie, which is Bush / Rumsfeld military policy. Tens of thousands of Iraq civilians have died and the toll mounts every day, in pursuit of a policy based on deception. The daily terror visited on the civilian population of Iraq stands in stark contrast to the invented and fictitious alleged terror that the government alleges in this case.

Lynne Stewart is on trial for being a messenger of truth. She represents, in this case, all those courageous defenders of human rights who dare to speak their own and their clients’ truths.

Direct Examination of Lynne Stewart

by Michael Tigar

Q. Did your representation of him (Sheik) in your view involve furthering his political goals?

A. No. I’m my own person. I have my own politics. They are not fundamentalist. And the only way that his politics entered into the representation was because we needed to explain to the jury how he happened to be before them. And to that extent we did need to explain what his politics were, but I’m not an adherent of fundamentalism.

Q. Now, when you say you’re not an adherent of fundamentalism, in your role as a lawyer, did you think it was a part of that to be someone who would adopt the client’s political view?

A. No. The danger, or I guess the thing that is very important in lawyering is you have to take a step to the side. You have to be able to view the case dispassionately. You cannot be too close to the client, or certainly not close to their cause, whatever it may be.

Q. And what was your understanding of your client’s view of Luxor?

A. Initially, he took no position, but a number of months later he decried the Luxor massacre and at the same time he favored the peace initiative. I think that things were very close in time.

Q. Did you have a personal view about the events of Luxor?

A. Yes.

Q. What was that?

A. My personal view is that it was absolutely deplorable, that people, civilians, tourists are not combatants, are not to be targets, and that this massacre, as it took place, was indefensible.

Q. And in that time, 1997, looking at that time, was it your personal view that violence could ever be used to accomplish a political goal?

A. It was my personal view then. It is my personal view now that in a righteous struggle — that is, where people are trying to overcome oppression, such as South Africa during the ’80s and ’90s and Ireland during many centuries — it is an appropriate response when there is no other response, is to fight back, to use — act in self defense and to accomplish political goals by those actions. I don’t believe in anarchistic violence, however.

Privilege - protecting it

Q. Do you think it’s legitimate for a lawyer interviewing a client in a prison setting to try and prevent — to do things to prevent the guards from hearing or knowing what’s going on?

A. I do absolutely.

Q. Why?

A. The client has got to be able to tell the lawyer completely what is on the client’s mind. The government has no right to hear these confidential conversations.

Q. Did you agree with the interpretation that the Special Administrative Measures should deprive your client of all communications, facilities, and equipment?

A. I understood this to mean that we were permitted to do the necessary legal work to vigorously defend Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who was incommunicado, held without a voice, and that the decisions that we had to make with regard to that were recognized under the SAMs as being ethical considerations, the way law was practiced, the way people were defended. And that within that bubble there was leeway granted and indeed the practice by my co-counsel, Mr. Clark and Mr. Jabara.

Cross Examination

by Andrew Dember for the Government

Q. And would it be fair to say when you looked at it, you didn’t look at it (the Lynne Stewart case) really from the standpoint of perhaps a person accused of wrongdoing, but as — you really looked at it from the perspective of a lawyer, is that right?

A. Well, not exactly. I think that it’s very hard to forsake one’s training and profession of 30 years. So of course I couldn’t help but look at it as a lawyer. That’s what I am. But I also looked at it as a defendant, which is, let me tell you, a very different look than the look of the lawyer.

Q. Did you know any other defendant inmates who had — were also under Special Administrative Measures?

A. It was my understanding that Leonard Pelletier, the leader in the American Indian Movement, is held under SAMs, that he is restricted. Other than that, I couldn’t say I know of personal knowledge anyone else.

Q. Not specifying the nature of the crimes, were those two people you mentioned or that you were thinking about, those people you’re thinking about, they were convicted individuals, they had been convicted of crimes?

A. Leonard Pelletier is completely innocent, as far as I know. It was appealed many, many times, and it’s been back to court many, many times. But he was, in fact, convicted from the incident on a reservation, the Sioux Indian Rosebud Reservation.....

Q. You never passed any messages from Abdel Rahman to the media?

A. Messages? No messages, no.

Q. Are you telling us the press release was something other than a message?

Q. My question is when you issued the press release are you telling us that wasn’t a message?

A. I don’t think that was a message. A message — I mean in my mind, is some secret communication. In other words, I take a message into the jail and come out and secretly give the answer. This was done so openly, so above board, so out there for everybody to know about. And, as I said, I wasn’t the first lawyer in this case to have done that in May of 2000 and we understood this was the leeway we were granted to represent the client in the best way possible seemed to indicate or at least indicated definitely to me that press releases were within that bubble, that making press releases in his name was not something that was actionable under the SAMs.

Q. Ms. Stewart, as we broke for lunch I was asking you about your discussion of the prospects for a lawsuit that you were discussing with your client on the 13th of July 2001 in the prison at Rochester. Did you think you had a good chance to get success in that lawsuit in a hurry?

A. As I explained, to answer the first part of the question, I did not think we had good chances of success, and as far as in a hurry, I was certainly aware of other cases such as cases that were brought on behalf of defendant Mumia Abu Jamal to get access to his mail without allowing the prison to read it ahead of time. That is his attorney-client mail. That lawsuit took three years to resolve just on that single issue. I did not think we were going to get a decision right away.

Would you do it again?

Q. Ms. Stewart, looking back at the events of May and June and July and August of 2000, if you had it to do over again, would you do it the same way? MR. DEMBER: Objection, your Honor.

THE COURT: Overruled.

A. Sitting here today, Mr. Tigar, it’s a very difficult question. I am diminished by the loss of my clientele. My family has suffered tremendously. (Tearing up. Getting tissue.)

MR. DEMBER: Objection, your Honor. Objection, your Honor.

A. I don’t know if I would do it again.

Q. As you sit there today, Ms. Stewart, do you believe that you violated any legal duty that you owed the United States of America?

A. I’d like to think I would do it, because it was a duty owed to the client. I do not believe I ever violated anything, any command, any restriction by the United States of America.

Q. I’m sorry. When you say constitutes the attorney client privilege?

A. Well, the ethics require us to agree with the client, first of all, about what the scope of the representation is. And I, of course, as I said, went to Rutgers Law School, which was client-centered and which took a view that the lawyer becomes, in more ways than one, counselor. So I would say that my view, while legal, because I also understand that, that there is a line — still in all, was a view that he was entitled to hear anything that could have any impact on his “case” or his condition at that time.

Q. My question was, do you have an expansive view of the attorney-client privilege? That’s a legal principle, correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Okay, do you have an expansive view of that?

A. Of the privilege itself? Yes, within the law I think I do have a very wide view of what it encompasses.

Witness: Ramsey Clark

>Q. Did there come a time when you took a job above Deputy Attorney General?

A. Yes. That was Attorney General. In September of ’66 the acting — the Attorney General was appointed Deputy Secretary of State and left the same day and I was Acting Attorney General, as I had been from time to time when the Attorney General wasn’t around. And then I was appointed and confirmed to be Attorney General.

Q. What kind of work did you do while you were the Deputy Attorney General?

A. The Deputy Attorney General is the deputy to the Attorney General and he does everything the Attorney General asks him to do. So, I had department-wide responsibilities but events determine those things. Almost the first thing I did was the president sent me to head the enforcement team for the March on Montgomery. So, I had been deputy for a couple weeks before I was sent down to Selma, Alabama, to protect the marchers under court order who were marching from Selma Montgomery for the right to vote.

Q. When you say the president, who was the president at that time?

A. Lyndon Johnson. He did a thing over at the White House and announced what he was doing. We had Army, everybody down there, protecting marchers.

Q. Did you have an opinion why it was important for you and the other lawyers to speak to the media about the Sheikh?

A. Yes.

Q. What was that opinion?

MR. BARKOW: Objection.

THE COURT: Overruled.

A. Well, I — it’s pretty much the reasons that I thought I’d mentioned; that it was important to keep the memory of the Sheikh alive. He was prohibited from communicating himself. We couldn’t patch calls through from him. We couldn’t put him on a speaker phone. We couldn’t let anybody else listen to the phone calls. We couldn’t tape-record them and put them out on a loud speaker from the top of a mosque. His lawyers had a duty in representing him and hoping to protect all of his rights to remind the world of his existence so he wouldn’t be completely forgotten.

Q. Is that about the time you had the interview? The date on the document, is that about the same time you had the interview?

A. I can only assume that it must be, yes. I talked to the press. The press called very frequently.

Q. And in that interview, what is it that you were discussing?

A. I think this is an interview which I said that the Sheikh favored withdrawing — not withdrawing, actually. That’s putting it backwards. That he favored a cease-fire.

Q. And you made that statement to a reporter, is that right?

A. I told at least one reporter that I believe that the Sheikh favored a cease fire. That he thought — you know, he often said that violence is bad and bad for Muslims and he favored the cease-fire.

Q. And I take it when you say that to a reporter you know there is a good chance it is going to end up in a newspaper, is that fair to say?

A. Sure.

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