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Bar News - March 22, 2013

Hundreds Attend Memorable MYM


More than 500 members of the New Hampshire bench and bar attended the 2013 NH Bar Association Midyear Meeting, held March 8 at the Center of New Hampshire in Manchester.

This yearís program featured two continuing legal education sessions, including a lively panel discussion on the detention and prosecution of terrorists, as well as the presentation of public service and Pro Bono awards.

The luncheon included a special tribute to the NH Public Defender, which is in its 40th year. (Click for more NHPD history and memories.)

In keeping with the theme of public criminal defense, US District Court Judge Marcia Cooke of the Southern District of Florida spoke at lunch about our nationís ongoing commitment to equal justice. Copies of Clarence Earl Gideonís habeas corpus petition to the US Supreme Court, handwritten in pencil, were distributed at the luncheon. The landmark ruling, Gideon v. Wainright, decided 50 years ago, required states to provide indigent defendants with legal representation under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The morning CLE, presented by Dallas trial lawyer Talmage Boston, featured examples of professionalism drawn from actual figures, including skilled negotiator James Baker, Watergate prosecutor Leon Jaworski, upright trial lawyer Abraham Lincoln, and the unforgettable Atticus Finch who, the speaker persuasively argued, was not a fictional character, but a recreation of author Harper Leeís father.

The day began with a well-attended Gender Equality breakfast, featuring Evelyn Murphy, former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor who now leads the W.A.G.E. Project which aims to educate employers and women about how to overcome gender discrimination issues in the workplace. Seven law firms also received certificates indicating their participation at all four Gender Equality Training Initiative sessions held this past fall. (An article on the breakfast featuring Murphyís remarks is planned for the April issue of Bar News.)

At the luncheon, awards were presented to:

Alan Linder - Outstanding Service in Public Sector/Public Interest Law Award.

Margaret H. Nelson - Distinguished Service to the Public Award.

Christopher T. Regan - Vickie M. Bunnell Award for Community Service

Also, Ginny Martin, associate executive director for legal services, presented the L. Jonathan Ross award for outstanding commitment to legal services for the poor to David L. Nixon. Several Pro Bono Service awards also were presented.

Civil Liberties on Trial

Judge Cooke, who presided over the 2007 trial of Jose Padilla, an American convicted of aiding terrorists and plotting an overseas "dirty bomb" attack, joined her longtime friend and NHBA President Larry Vogelman for the afternoon CLE panel discussion, Civil Liberties on Trial: Promoting the Rule of Law. The other panelists were Seattle attorney and former JAG officer Charles Swift and Assistant US Attorney for the District of New Hampshire Michael Gunnison.

Vogelman, moderator of the discussion, said he "had the responsibility and privilege of being involved in criminal cases that could be considered terrorism cases" while he was in practice in New York City. He represented Edwin Wilson, a CIA agent convicted of hiring a hit man to kill two prosecutors and a witness, and a band of IRA gunrunners. Swift represented Osama bin Ladenís driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, a case in which the US Supreme Court held that military commissions set up by the Bush Administration to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions.

Gunnison, a US government prosecutor since 1987, has served as an overseas legal advisor and in 2010 was in a civilian role as the US Rule of Law Coordinator in Baghdad, where he advised the Iraqi judiciary.

The panel discussion focused on the pros and cons of using special military commissions and courts to try terrorism suspects at home and abroad. While Cooke argued that civilian courts are the appropriate venue for terrorism trials, Gunnison said itís important for the government to have other options for the small number of cases in which civilian courts are inappropriate.

"No one course of action is the right course of action in every case," he said.

Cooke called the idea of establishing specialized military courts for these cases "constitutionally scary" and said that although it is expensive, the "criminal thugs" who commit acts of terrorism can and should be tried in civilian courts.

"These are criminals and should be treated as such, and by holding them out to some separate court, I think youíre kind of throwing the baby out with the bath water," she said.

Swift was seeking to show that military commissions were unconstitutional and was "looking for a defendant" when he took Hamdanís case in 2004. He said the American people have accepted the preventive detention at Guantanamo Bay because people from the Middle East represent "the other." "The only reason we tolerated this at all is we think this is a bunch of Muslims," he said.

The panelists also discussed the meaning of "special courts" in other countries and the complications that would be inherent in establishing a "terrorism court." Cooke said other countries consider the American system of justice to be a model of the rule of law and that itís important we maintain that example. "We donít always realize what a beacon of justice we are for other countries," she said.

Gunnison said that, despite the significant reduction in the number of detainees there, the continued existence of Guantanamo Bay threatens the countryís position as a model for other nations.

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