If I were a card-carrying member of the American Bar Association -- and I am not -- I would tear up my membership card and mail it back to the bozos who decided to name Alberto R. Gonzales, disgraced former attorney general, as the ABA Journal's "Lawyer of the Year."
The ABA Journal is the bar association's official publication. And its award, which is neither a joke nor an attempt at sarcasm, was meant to acknowledge Gonzales's unique role in 2007 as the lawyer who made the most news. Instead, it stands as an affront to every honest, competent, hard-working lawyer in America, in and out of goverment, who did not act like an idiot before Congress, or display an appalling lack of courage and integrity in dealing with both subordinates and superiors, or leave to his successor and the nation a bloody mess that may take years to clean up.
How about Charles Swift, the military lawyer who bravely defends Guantanamo Bay detainees, despite the massive toll his counsel has taken upon his career? How about the stoic private attorneys who donated their time and energy to help the detainees? How about the attorneys who have done so much to bring the significant problems with lethal injection to the attention of the Supreme Court? How about James B. Comey, who, unlike Gonzales, stood up to his superiors and spoke out against the government's poor policy choices when he was a high-ranking Justice Department official?
These people deserve awards and recognition; they are the sorts of attorneys, the sorts of people, we want our children to emulate should they choose the law as their profession.
Gonzales? He's the bumbling crony who authored the "torture memo," who couldn't come up with a coherent explanation as to why U.S. attorneys were purged, and who was literally laughed at, to his face, by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Imagine that -- a lawyer being laughed at by politicians. How humiliating.
The only thing about him worth emulating is his ability to make so much money speaking around the country, now that he's finally been exiled from Washington.
ABA Journal Editor and Publisher Edward Adams, formerly of the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. and an old friend, told me via e-mail yesterday that the "award is neither an endorsement of [Gonzales], nor a criticism of him. We're like Time magazine when it names its Person of the Year; we're identifying the person who most affected the legal world in 2007."
But the ABA Journal is decidely not Time. Time is a news magazine. So when people like Stalin and Hitler made news, they were logical, if not popular, choices for man of the year. The ABA Journal, on the other hand, is a magazine about the law and the people who make it work. And, in that capacity, it owes more to its readers, and to people looking to it for insight into American law, than a gimmicky substitution of notoriety for true accomplishment. (One of the runners-up for this year's award was disgraced former district attorney Michael Nifong, the fellow who fouled up the Duke lacrosse case.)
Adams also told me yesterday "And it's worth remembering, as we said in our announcement, 'the magazine's articles do not necessarily reflect the official policy positions of the American Bar Association.' I and my colleagues at the Journal simply report and analyze legal news; the lawyers who lead the ABA make the organization's policy." I do not doubt this is the case. But it's a distinction likely to be lost on the rest of the world.
Gonzales is worthy only of scorn. The ABA Journal should apologize for its disappointing lack of judgment and sensitivity in selecting him for any sort of recognition.
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