CC partner blasts Bush govt and rejects boycott threat

Clifford Chance’s US partner in charge of pro bono has slammed the US attorney general Alberto Gonzales, who recently blamed law firms for the delay in bringing Guantanamo inmates to trial.

The Clifford Chance partner’s words intensify the battle between firms acting for Guantanamo prisoners and the Bush administration, which has called for corporate clients to boycott those firms.

White collar partner Warren Feldman told The Lawyer of the US political establishment’s “continuing failure to understand the essential role played by defence counsel in ensuring the rule of law”.

In an interview with The Associated Press (16 January 2006), Gonzales said that the delay in trying detainees of the notorious prison camp was “not for lack of trying. We are challenged every step of the way. We are trying as hard as we can to bring these individuals to justice”.

His comments follow those of US deputy assistant secretary of defence for detainee affairs Charles Stimson, who said that it was “shocking” that firms pro bono teams have represented Guantanamo detainees, and called for clients to boycott those firms.

Feldman continued: “On the one hand Alberto Gonzales has disavowed what Charles Stimson said, but on the other hand, he has attributed the years it has taken [the administration] to bring charges to defence, and really that blinks reality.

“The administration has fought tooth and nail for detainees not to get due process – they have had to have the Supreme Court tell them what to do several times.”

Feldman cautioned that his views were his own, and did not represent those of the firm as a whole. However he added that Stimson’s remarks “would not have an effect on [Clifford Chance’s] business”, and that the firm “has a sophisticated client base which understands the traditions of the bar”.

He was “not aware of a single client issue” that has followed the comments and confirmed that the firm will continue to represent Guantanamo detainees.

Stimson had listed firms he felt should be boycotted, including leading US firms such as Cleary Gottlieb, Debevoise & Plimpton, Hunton & Williams, Shearman & Sterling and Sullivan & Cromwell.

Allen & Overy has also represented Guantanamo inmates but has remained tight-lipped as the row has developed.