A senior Pentagon official resigned Friday over controversial remarks in which he criticized lawyers who represent terrorism suspects, the Defense Department said. Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said Charles ”Cully” Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, told him on Friday that he had made his own decision to resign and was not asked to leave by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
"The Deputy Assistant Secretary did the right thing." said Tom Bolt, President of the American Counsel Association, the oldest association of independent law firms. "But this does not end here, I am confident that when the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates convenes later this month that we will address the issue of detainees, their right to counsel and other issues relative to the proper administration of justice." Bolt said.
Stimson drew outrage from the legal community including repudiation from the Presidents of the American Bar Association and the American Counsel Association. The Defense Department disavowed the January 11th comments, in which he also suggested some attorneys were being untruthful about doing the work free of charge and instead were ”receiving moneys from who knows where.”
He also said companies might want to consider taking their legal business to other firms that do not represent suspected terrorists. ”I think, quite honestly, when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms,” Stimson told Federal News Radio.
Stimson publicly apologized several days after the radio interview, saying his comments did not reflect his values and that he firmly believes in the principles of the U.S. legal system. But it didn’t completely quiet critics. The Bar Association of San Francisco last week asked the California State Bar to investigate whether Stimson violated legal ethics by suggesting a boycott of law firms that represent Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Stimson said he was leaving because of the controversy over a radio interview in which he said he found it shocking that lawyers at many ofthe nation’s top law firms represent detainees held at the U.S. military prison in Cuba. ”He believed it hampered his ability to be effective in this position,” Whitman said of the backlash to Stimson’s comments.