Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More Darfur bluster

If you ever feel like complaining about posturing politicians in the U.S., imagine the plight of the citizens of the Darfur region of Sudan. Recolonization? Ridiculous--but maybe not a bad idea if this keeps up much longer.
Khartoum - Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir has voiced strong opposition to the deployment of Western troops in war-torn Darfur, vowing his country would not be "recolonised"."I swear that there will not be any international military intervention in Darfur as long as I am in power," Beshir said late on Monday."Sudan, which was the first country south of the Sahara to gain independence, cannot now be the first country to be recolonised," he said.The UN wants to replace an embattled and under-equipped contingent of African troops in the western region of Darfur with its own peacekeepers in an attempt to shore up a fragile peace deal. - Sapa-AFP
I can't wait to see how the U.N. responds to this. Of course, the U.S. action in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with the latest rumblings from a nuclear aspiring Iran, can only make the situation more difficult. How can the rest of the world ever muster the resolve to take action in Darfur? Is the situation as hopeless as it seems? Where is real leadership when you need it!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Zarqawi and the death penalty

The death of the villainous Abu Musab al-Zarqawi forces me to come to grips with what at first might seem to be diametrically conflicting personal beliefs. I am inalterably opposed to the death penalty. Yet, I welcomed the news of Zarqawi's death. I wanted it to happen, and I am glad it did. Why don't I feel the same way about the men and women sitting on death row today? I don't, and here's why. Whatever you might think about the Iraq war, there seems to me to be little doubt that the American military has been heavily engaged in an armed struggle with enemies who would, if they could, fundamentally change our way of life. I believe there is a very real protective perimeter around our society, and we have our armed forces to thank for maintaining it. The things we enjoy most--the arts, sports, cultural endeavors, careers, family stuff, etc.--are made possible only because that perimeter has been steadfastly maintained by the sacrifices of generations of soldiers, sailors, aviators, and Marines. Life inside the perimeter is good. Here, we live according to the rule of law. Life outside the perimeter is savage. There, the rule of law gives way to the brutality of war. Efforts to establish and enforce a "law of war" have never really succeeded. Enter Zarqawi. Videotaped beheadings, suicide bombings, indiscriminate killings of civilians, mass executions, and other similar purposeful tactics cannot possibly exist or be tolerated inside or outside our perimeter. The news stories today are filled with speculation about whether Zarqawi survived the initial bombing and was subsequently "shot" by American troops. The fact that this kind of questioning is seriously considered is stark evidence of how highly valued the rule of law is inside the perimeter. Sometimes we even lose track of where the perimeter ends. Exit Zarqawi, and good riddance. There is certainly much room inside the perimeter for differences of opinion about the death penalty. I have mine, and it is based primarily on my own ideal notion of "civilization." There is something about the methodical, step by step, phases and stages procedures leading up to an execution which is just too "premeditated" for me. Perhaps I can justifiably be accused of silly idealism, but I prefer a society which deliberately spares life under all circumstances. Like all other citizens, however, I vote only once, and I commit myself to abide by the rule of law as it is enacted by our legislatures, enforced by our executives, and interpreted by our courts. In the meantime, I will continue to work pro bono on capital cases, and I applaud the countless other lawyers "inside our perimeter" who are doing the same thing on a daily basis.

Making a difference

This Philadelphia columnist has come to the conclusion which motivates many a pro bono capital defense lawyer:
If you're on the fence about capital punishment, as I have been - vacillating between horror at the growing number of death-row inmates who turn out to be innocent, and rage at the brutal killers responsible for the daily carnage in our streets - this case may settle the issue for you. It did for me.
This case involves the work of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius partners Michael Banks and J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. When they first started representing convicted murderer John Thompson, they weren't thinkng about exonerating an innocent man:
What's deeply chilling about the Thompson case is that there was nothing at first glance to suggest he was innocent - nothing to make it a moral cause celebre. "There were no red flags," Banks said at a Philadelphia Bar Association presentation about the case last week. Thompson was exonerated only because Banks and Cooney, partners at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, wanted to do a pro-bono capital case to ensure that a death-row inmate had received a fair trial.
This story is now a movie starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. My guess is that John Thompson would cast Messrs. Banks and Cooney in the starring roles. These guys really made a difference.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

DLA Piper takes the pledge big time

This remarkable commitment to pro bono service deserves the highest praise.
DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary's pro bono arm has picked three international projects and announced how many hours its lawyers will commit to pro bono work this year. New Perimeter, the firm's not-for-profit affiliate, which coordinates its overseas pro bono activities, has committed more than 13,000 lawyer hours, with an estimated value of more than $6m (£3.19m), for 2006. The three projects that will benefit from the firm's input this year are the South Africa Litigation Centre, the Global Foodbanking Network and the CHF International Micro Financing Project.
News like this more often than not goes completely unnoticed. Indeed, there are countless numbers of lawyers doing millions of hours of annual pro bono service nationally and world wide without any notice at all. It makes me very proud of my profession. Nice going, DLA Piper!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bickel & Brewer leads the way

This story is very cool. John Bickel and Bill Brewer are two very successful, high powered lawyers. For them to create a charitable foundation like this speaks volumes about who they really are.

Dallas-based lawyers John Bickel and Bill Brewer say they take pride not only in providing legal service for their clients, but also in taking a genuine interest in the communities where those clients live. So, in 1995, the 34-lawyer law firm of Bickel & Brewer decided to create its own charitable foundation using that same philosophy to benefit underserved members of the community.

Mr. Brewer said the firm, which has offices in downtown Dallas, New York and in a storefront in South Dallas, started the Future Leaders Program – FLP – in 2001 after dealing with cases involving North Texas school boards that did not offer families access to their decision-making process.

"The firm's focus on education is the result of the pro bono work that the firm does in the storefront office," Mr. Brewer said.

The Future Leaders Program provides after-school academic resources and leadership training for middle school students from South Dallas and Oak Cliff.

Nice going, John and Bill. Thanks for all you do.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Haditha dampens hopes for Darfur

As this excerpt from an editorial by Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal on-line edition astutely concludes, the Haditha incident will have seriously negative repercussions in Darfur, as well as in any other areas of the world in which murderous tyranny flourishes. Things do not look good for benevolent military intervention (if there is such a thing) any time soon in any other world hot spot.

Two major military reports will come out soon on the Haditha incident, and no one will gainsay justice if that is required. But the atmosphere around this event is going to get uncontrollably manic, and that will feed the dark, inward-turning sentiments already poisoning the country's mood over issues like the immigration debate. Good for Democrats? Don't count on it. After this, the public appetite for a Democratic president's "humanitarian" military intervention in a Darfur or East Timor will be close to zero.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


As the story about the U.S. Marine action in Haditha unfolds, let us all pause and reflect upon the type of emotional provocations which in real life lead to homicides. Pro bono lawyers who represent defendants in capital cases are used to this kind of introspective reflection. How can people do these things? How can they be defended? We've learned the answer, but it's not an easy one. The true facts about what happened in Haditha may take a while to become known. Let's wait, but let's not move on without learning.