News Release ~ 2002-9

Judge''s ruling may signal end to unfair detention

Victory for rule of law 

Washington, DC -- In response to last week''s ruling by Federal District Judge Shira Scheindlin that the federal material witness statute cannot be applied to grand jury witnesses, Irwin Schwartz, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, issued the following statement:

"If federal authorities continue to lock up law-abiding citizens and residents without legal cause, we will erode our long-held respect as the most just nation in the world, among our international partners and our own citizens.

"Judge Scheindlin has shown the courage to place law above fear and justice above convenience. The Justice Department has stretched the law in many instances to detain people, many of whom have no significant relation to terrorist activities, and often without attention to due process.

"Judge Scheindlin''s decision points the way toward keeping the rule of law paramount as we deal with terrorism. It gives hope that we can once again count on the law to protect us all, and that federal authorities must confine themselves to what the law allows, even when doing so does not directly benefit their immediate goals. Judge Scheindlin''s courage should be applauded by all who respect the Constitution."

Schwartz is a criminal defense lawyer in Seattle. He can be reached at (206)623-5084.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 9,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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