Lynne Stewart Faces Sentencing Hearing

October 16, 2006

Later today, 67-year old New York attorney Lynne Stewart will face a sentencing hearing in the wake of her 2005 conviction for "providing material support to terrorists" by publicly releasing a statement of a client (imprisoned for life since a 1995 conviction of plotting to destroy landmarks in New York) under a gag order. Stewart's prosecution -- based largely on government surveillance of her communications with her client -- was described by The Seattle Weekly as "a chance for the Bush administration to see how far it can push its evisceration of the Bill of Rights," and by TalkLeft as potentially "Revoking the Attorney-Client Privilege . . . ." Georgetown Law Professor David Cole has argued that her prosecution "will have a chilling effect on lawyers who might represent an unpopular client," and ethics expert David Luban suggested, in the wake of a jury's conclusion "that [Stewart] had crossed the line from zealous advocacy to criminal conduct," that:

one could offer the same assessment for the "torture lawyers" -- the cabal of attorneys advising the Bush administration on the legality of U.S. interrogation policies -- including [Attorney General and] former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, vice presidential counsel David Addington, Justice Department lawyers Jay Bybee [now a judge on the Ninth Circuit] and John Yoo [now a professor at Boalt Hall], and Pentagon counsel William Haynes [whose nomination to the Fourth Circuit the Senate recently declined to confirm] . . . . [whose] political polarities are reversed, but [whose] gut-level affinity with the client's politics is the same, as is their willingness to bend (or break) the law to make their client's wishes come true.

Prosecutors seek a 30-year sentence for what they describe as Stewart's "extremely dangerous and devious" conduct. For her part, Stewart -- who has battled cancer since her conviction and previously represented Black Panthers, as well as leaders of the Weather Underground -- recently wrote a 9-page letter seeking leniency from U.S. District Judge John G. Koetl, in which she reiterated that "[she is] not a traitor."