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Portraits of Resistance: Lawyer Responses to Unjust Proceedings

52 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2009  

Alexandra D. Lahav

University of Connecticut - School of Law

Abstract

This Article considers a question rarely addressed: what is the role of the lawyer in a manifestly unjust procedural regime? Many excellent studies have considered the role of the judge in unjust regimes, but the lawyer’s role has been largely ignored. This Article draws on two case studies: that of lawyers representing civil rights leaders during protests in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 and that of lawyers representing detainees facing military commission proceedings in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. These portraits illuminate the role of the lawyer in a procedurally unjust tribunal operating within a larger liberal legal regime such as our own.

The purpose of the Article is to paint a landscape of lawyer resistance to procedural injustice that can be used as a basis for further inquiry. The Article considers hard questions about lawyer participation in unjust tribunals such as whether lawyers who participate in unjust tribunals are complicit in injustice and what lawyers can do in the face of an unjust procedural regime. It presents a new way of understanding the forms of lawyer resistance to injustice. The Article demonstrates that complicity and resistance are not on opposite poles of human behavior within organizational systems. Rather, there is a dualistic interplay between complicity and resistance. Acts that appear to be resistance can be perceived as complicit, and acts that appear to be complicit can result in powerful forms of resistance. The Article also explores some questions raised by this analysis, such as what are the lawyer’s responsibilities to society and to his or her client and whether lawyers can know when a tribunal is so unjust as to merit resistance. It concludes by considering avenues for further research.

Keywords: procedural justice, Guantanamo, military commissions, due process, ethics, professional responsibility, resistance, civil rights

Suggested Citation

Lahav, Alexandra D., Portraits of Resistance: Lawyer Responses to Unjust Proceedings. UCLA Law Review, Forthcoming; Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1470508. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1470508

Alexandra D. Lahav (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut - School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

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