When your blogger was a baby lawyer, his very first trial came when he represented a young man accused of drunk driving. In those olden times, the police took alleged offenders to a small room in the local jail. A black stripe, probably four or five inches wide, was painted on the floor, down the center of the room. The suspect was made to stand at one end of the stripe and then walk down it, all while being filmed on a video camera. At the beginning of the filming, a police officer stood next to the suspect and read him his Miranda rights from a small card.
I didn’t know this until the trial started. My client had repeatedly assured me he had not been drinking at all the night of his arrest. When they wheeled in the television to show the film, my client likewise assured me they had not filmed him.
They turned on the TV and there was my client, standing quietly and steadily against the wall. There was the black stripe. The arresting officer came into view and began reading my client his rights. About halfway through, the officer leapt out of view. That was because my client had begun placidly urinating on his leg.
The judge practically fell out of his chair, he was laughing so hard. We took a short break and I told my client he needed to plead guilty. At first, he resisted, still telling me he was innocent. I told him that he could either plead guilty or go back into that courtroom without a lawyer. He pled.
My point? No lawyer worth his salt ever accepts at face value what he is told by his client.
Which brings me to Jay Bybee, John Yoo, and the other lawyers involved in writing “The Torture Memos.” Apparently none had ever learned that lesson. Most of the memos are filled with long explanations about what the client, in this case, the CIA, had told them. Not only did the lawyers accept every word as true, they then set about immunizing the CIA as if everything it said was true.
That is a fault frequently found in young lawyers. They are gullible. It is the reason why no lawyer under the age of 50 should ever become a judge. Such lawyers lack the practical experiences of life necessary for such a job. It is why Jay Bybee — barely dry behind the ears and a resident of an upper-class gated community in Las Vegas, Nevada — has no business being a judge, let alone a judge on a court as high as the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. It is why it was such a mistake for Alberto Gonzales and George Bush to bring him to Washington and give him a job while they waited for a vacancy on the Ninth Circuit. It is why it is so awful that the ideologues of both parties now insist on putting young lawyers on the bench instead of seasoned ones.
Beyond that, I have little to add to what is likely to be a long national debate on the Bush Administration’s use of torture, other than this: Watch the chronology. The memos from 2005 that the former Vice-president wants released are not important. The memoranda written in late 2001 and 2002 are due much more weight than those written later. All the later ones were written by people attempting to justify themselves, based on information provided to them by other people attempting to justify themselves. The later documents are not worthy of belief.
Just like my client of long ago.