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Opinion

EDITORIAL: Justice system relies on representation for all

Attorneys often represent bad people. The American justice system, where everyone is innocent until proved guilty and entitled to a legal defense, wouldn't work unless they did. So impugning the loyalty of Justice Department lawyers who represented Guantánamo detainees as private attorneys is the worst kind of witch hunt. Anyone who cares about the integrity of our system of justice should push back hard against those leading the charge to condemn nine lawyers on the specious assumption that they may share their clients' extremist views.

Once on a case, attorneys have a professional obligation to zealously defend their clients. The lawyers who met that obligation on behalf of detainees actually defended the U.S. Constitution as well, by challenging the military commissions where they were to stand trial. The Supreme Court agreed the commissions were constitutionally flawed and ordered them scrapped, prompting Congress to fashion an alternative.

Certainly any attorney who actually believes that terrorism is a legitimate political tool should be barred from the Department of Justice. But the group Keep America Safe, Liz Cheney and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) - who are leading the charge against the nine lawyers - have produced no evidence that any have such extreme views. This is dangerous territory. If an attorney's reputation and career become the price for representing controversial clients, the American justice system would be one casualty.hN

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