Michael Mukasey today joined the chorus of conservatives and legal professionals decrying Liz Cheney’s “Al-Qaeda 7” attack ad, which portrayed Justice Department lawyers who’d once represented Guantanamo detainees as terrorist sympathizers. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, the former attorney general argues that lawyers, from those who defended Bernie Madoff to those who made legal arguments for Bush administration torture policies, should be held responsible for the clients or views they represent.
“A lawyer who represents a party in a contested matter has an ethical obligation to make any and all tenable legal arguments that will help that party,” Mukasey argues. We should make sure these lawyers have no outside agenda of course, but shouldn’t regard them as “a fifth column within the Justice Department.” If the government only hires lawyers who have avoided controversy, the quality of its lawyers will drastically decline. (Read more Michael Mukasey stories.)