News Release

Criminal defense bar to address ethical issues of tribunal rules

President cautions members in magazine column 

Washington, DC (July 11, 2003) -- The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ board of directors will formally take up ethical issues surrounding the Bush Administration’s rules governing conduct of trials of “enemy combatants” in military tribunals at the association’s annual meeting in Denver August 2.

In the meantime, NACDL’s Ethics Advisory Committee is drafting a formal opinion on whether counsel can represent detainees, without violating ethical rules, under a scheme which, among other things, compromises attorney-client privilege. The opinion is expected within two weeks.

NACDL President Lawrence Goldman has already cautioned members in his column in The Champion, the association’s magazine. Goldman refers to the American criminal defense bar’s long history of “representing the despised,” dating to John Adams’ representation of British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre. Citing rules prohibiting media contact without permission from the Defense Department, and, most importantly, rules requiring that counsel agree to have client conversations monitored, Goldman writes that “with considerable regret, we cannot advise our members to act as civilian counsel at Guantanamo.”

Incoming NACDL President E. E. “Bo” Edwards placed the issue on the agenda for his first meeting as president. “These rules were released just after our last meeting,” he said. “I want our board to get a chance to make a statement about the problems raised by these rules. We consider representation of unpopular defendants a part of our job. But we are concerned that ethical rules governing lawyers’ conduct prevent us from representing any of these detainees under current circumstances.”

(Click here to read related President Lawrence Goldman's column from the July 2003 Champion: "Guantanamo: Little hope for zealous advocacy.")

Goldman is a criminal defense lawyer in New York City. He can be reached at (212) 997-7499. Goldman’s column from the July 2003 Champion is available at under News & Issues. The NACDL Ethics Advisory Opinion will be available on that Web page when released.

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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 many thousands of 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 legal system.