FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - November 1, 2017

Contact: Virginia Sloan, President
 
TCP Expresses Outrage at Wrongful Contempt Charge Against Marine General Defense Lawyer

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Constitution Project (TCP) condemns the decision of a military judge finding Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker in contempt for excusing three civilian lawyers because of ethical conflicts involving the attorney-client privilege. Gen. Baker was sentenced to 21 days confinement and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine. Moreover, TCP is alarmed at the possibility that an individual facing the death penalty will not have proper, qualified representation, as required by law.

Mary Spears, Rosa Eliades, and Richard Kammen were the three lawyers released in the case of United States v. Nashiri because of apparent government intrusions into attorney-client privilege, a growing issue in military commission trials.  Abd al Rahim al Nashiri is accused of the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. After being in custody for almost 15 years, Nashiri's pretrial hearings will proceed this Friday at the direction of the judge, Air Force Col. Vance Spath. Nashiri's current sole defense counsel, Navy Lt. Alaric Piette, protested that the case cannot proceed without an experienced and qualified death penalty attorney.

TCP President Virginia Sloan stated, "This is a clear violation of the right to representation by counsel.  Further, Gen. Baker should not be held in contempt for correcting a situation that may well undermine the fairness of the proceedings."

Judge Spath also found Gen. Baker's decision to release the three civilian attorneys "null and void." He ordered Kammen, Eliades, and Spears to appear in court next week despite their ethical concerns. A May 2016 memorandum
by members of TCP's Liberty and Security Committee and its Task Force on Detainee Treatment regarding the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act sets forth recommendations regarding appropriate handling of military commission proceedings.  


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About The Constitution Project ®

Created out of the belief that we must cast aside the labels that divide us in order to keep our democracy strong, The Constitution Project brings together policy experts and legal practitioners from across the political spectrum to foster consensus-based solutions to the most difficult constitutional challenges of our time through scholarship, advocacy, policy reform and public education initiatives. Established in 1997, TCP is based in Washington, D.C.