(cross posted at PoliPundit)
Last night I watched CNN’s Aaron Brown do a very solemn piece about Lynne Stewart, the lawyer who was convicted of assisting her client conduct terrorist activities. The solemnity did not appear to be based on the alarming fact that a US attorney would threaten her fellow citizens this way, but on the punishment that Stewart faced for her crimes. CNN’s piece made particular mention of the fact that she faced many years in prison and further noted that Stewart had children. It is completely revolting (though not surprising) that CNN would focus on her loss, given the hundreds of children in recent years who have learned of their parents’ death at the hands of terrorists, perhaps the very terrorists Stewart assisted. What was further revolting was the “thought provoking” discussion CNN attempted to raise about how Stewart was prosecuted using video taped evidence of her meetings with her client.
CNN showed Stewart, apparently a victim herself, giving a tearful and impassioned speech to the press about the evils of government denying its citizens the right to counsel, without in any way scrutinizing what Stewart was saying. The problem is there is no thought provoking issue here. Solicitor and client privilege does not extend to communications in the furtherance of a criminal activity. This isn’t cutting edge, ground breaking jurisprudence either, but a longstanding rule of law. The foundations of this rule are not simply based on the policy that a lawyer must not be shielded from his or her own criminal activity, but are based on protecting the sanctity of the solicitor and client privilege itself. If the privilege is allowed to become a tool for committing wrongs its very existence is threatened. Lawyers who abuse the privilege do so with the knowledge that they are jeopardizing others’ right to effective legal assistance in the future.
That Lynne Stewart would continue to tearfully proclaim the sanctity of the very privilege she was threatening, like the terrorist hiding behind civilians in the battlefield, shows just how much she has become like her clients.
That CNN would, to any degree, portray her as a victim of the justice system shows just how far CNN’s leanings have become like those of Stewart and her clients.