July 9, 2008


At the time of the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Boumediene v. Bush three weeks ago, the Justice Department had four lawyers devoted to handling about 250 Guantanamo Bay habeas cases.

Now that the high court has cleared the way for detainees to challenge their captivity in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Justice is trying to fatten its team to 50 lawyers -- half of whom would be assigned to clean up or augment the government's evidence.

(Acting Assistant Attorney General Gregory) Katsas' letter (calling for 30 more attorneys from outside the DoJ) was sent on the same day that the D.C. Circuit unclassified portions of a decision that criticized the quality of the government's evidence in a detainee case. The letter is the first acknowledgment by the Justice Department that factual returns -- the summaries of the government's allegations and evidence in support of holding the detainees -- may not pass muster in federal court.

The letter is silent on where the 30 outside lawyers will come from, but it states plainly why they are needed: The 100 factual returns already filed in the habeas cases require shoring up, and the Justice Department needs lawyers to produce at least 100 more returns for the remaining cases. The Justice Department's plan to amend the evidence in the habeas cases was first reported by the Associated Press.

The DoJ started asking their 93 US Attorneys office last week to help with their search. While the DoJ will not say how their search is going, I've spoken to some attorneys who tell me that they're not getting much interest. In fact, there's some confusion as to what the DoJ needs at all:

"It seems bizarre that the Justice Department needs to throw a whole bunch of new lawyers at explaining at the most basic level why these people are in prison," says Susan Baker Manning, a partner at Bingham McCutchen

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