The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, a liberal political and social justice nonprofit, yesterday delivered more than 100 complaints against former Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes – now chief corporate counsel for San Ramon-based oil giant Chevron – to the California State Bar’s offices in San Francisco.
The guild says the complaints came from ordinary Americans demanding that the State Bar thoroughly investigate and issue a written decision on Haynes’ actions and inactions at the Defense Department regarding the legal framework for indefinite detentions, military tribunals and “enhanced interrogation” – which many since have deemed torture – of terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay. Complaints came mostly from California residents but also from as far away as Maine and Washington D.C., the guild said, and still are arriving by mail to the guild’s offices, all eventually to be forwarded to the State Bar.
“This campaign is appropriate because William Haynes was one of the lawyers shaping policy that harmed so many prisoners and put all of us in greater danger,” NLGSF Executive Director Carlos Villarreal said in a news release. “Anyone can file a complaint against a California lawyer, and while the process should never be abused, the process ought to be available to anyone and everyone when a lawyer commits wrongdoing from a position of power in our government resulting in such a devastating and widespread effect.”
The State Bar closed without prejudice – meaning, allowing the right to re-file – a more detailed complaint filed by the NLGSF in March; the NLGSF intends to ask for a formal review of that decision next week.
“The State Bar investigates and disciplines far less powerful attorneys who have committed far less egregious acts,” NLGSF Executive Board Member Sharon Adams of Berkeley said in the release. “It was surprising that they would close our complaint without even initiating an investigation. It seems to contradict one of the most important functions of the State Bar – to protect the public.”
“Haynes is still in a position to do great harm, undoubtedly shaping the actions of a major corporation that has committed human rights abuses around the world and had a major impact on our environment,” she added. “There is no doubt that the public needs to be proactive when a lawyer like Haynes is still granted the privilege of practicing law and crafting policies that will continue to have an enormous impact on people.”