2009 Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) President’s Reception – Pro Bono Service Award to Bingham McCutchen – Speech Notes – PDF

2009 CCR President’s Reception Pro Bono Award Speech Notes

Tonight we honor with our pro bono award the Boston based law firm of Bingham McCutchen

As you know extraordinary set of pro bono lawyers–some 600–lawyers at Bingham have been remarkable–

  1. Began when one of their partners–Sabin Willett–saw an article about the Uighurs–Western Chinese Muslims detained at Guantanamo–

He called CCR–and for years now–he and two others with him tonight, Susan Baker Manning and Jason Pinney have been deeply involved in that litigation–

2. I won’t go into their backgrounds as commercial lawyers, although they are impressive.

a. Sabin is not only a great Gitmo lawyer but a very good novelist–

Here is what Gita Gutierrez–CCR Gitmo lawyer said about Sabin–

Sabin came to us skeptical of the men in GTMO, but like a good traditional lawyer, believed even murderous terrorists deserved even basic due process and representation. He humored us through the training and brought his firm into the GTMO fray through the strength of his leadership.

Then he went to GTMO and met his clients. Sabin learned; his clients were young men who had been found innocent and were eligible for release years (?) ago – they weren’t terrorists

Sabin returned a convert. He and his colleagues have become some of the most dedicated, eloquent and skillful attorneys in the pack. They have also unflinchingly faced some of the most heartbreaking situations that would make lesser humans fade.

b. Here is how my office describes Susan Baker Manning–a partner at Bingham–Susan has been involved in these cases since 2004 and is such a tough negotiator that the DOJ Appellate lawyers are afraid of her!

c. And here is what my office says about Jason Pinney–“Jason is the one who spends the long nights at the secure facility sorting through classified reports and toiling on briefs–and he played a critical role in two important victories–”

3. (One more lawyer I want to mention–a solo practitioner–who is here and should be publicly recognized–Beth Gilson from New Haven–rep 2 of Uighurs–not so easy as a solo practitioner–at her own cost–)

(Other Uighur attys Kramer Levin and ), Miller & Chevalier)

4. 17 Uighurs remain in GTMO. Bingham represents 9 of those 17. All were cleared for release as long ago as 2003. That means they should not be there. Not for one more day much less year after year–yet they remain–

5. All live in Camp Iguana (less restrictive but still not good).

Here is what Sabin says about Camp Iguana–

“There are actually iguanas that go in and out.” “If you were to hit an iguana with your Jeep, it would cost you $10,000 under the Endangered Species Act. The iguanas have rights at Camp Iguana. My clients don’t.”

6. After Sabin, Susan and Jason won a major victory exonerating Parhat one of their Uighur clients–here is what Sabin said:

Parhat is now in his seventh year of imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay, and he doesn’t even know about his ruling because he’s sitting in solitary confinement and we can’t tell him about it. That’s what we do to people in this country–we put them in solitary confinement even when they are not enemy combatants.”

7. After a victory by different lawyers for other clients–here was Sabin’s comments on our listserv:

congrats and welcome to Camp Iguana.

and now 20 of the 23 “winners” remain at Guantanamo

Finally–this on our listserv–a Gitmo atty writes with a question

If you left a heavy silver compact/locket-like thingy with a heart engraved on it at one of the carrels at the secure facility, I gave it to folks at the front desk.

How does Sabin respond? with the name of one of the male lawyers followed by a question mark?

So to Bingham McCutchen, Sabin, Susan and Jason–CCR pro bono award–you make us all proud–