Recent Broward Law Blog Features

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Activist Attorney Lynne Stewart Loses Appeal in NY- Ordered to Prison

Lynne Stewart, who is affectionately known as the “People’s Lawyer” for her tireless defense of clients in social justice and human rights cases, has been ordered to prison after her bail was revoked.

Here in South Florida we are worried about the unjust prosecution of Benedict Kuehne. We are consumed with the discombobulation of Scott Rothstein. But in New York, another lawyer has been convicted of a crime too, and I think it is a gross injustice which should probably outrage criminal defense lawyers anywhere and everywhere. I just don’t by into the government’s case.

Lynne Stewart had been an activist lawyer working on the cutting edge for decades, but in 2005 in New York, she was convicted on charges of supporting terrorism by purportedly helping an imprisoned blind Egyptian cleric smuggle messages to militant followers.

Not only was she ordered to prison by a U.S. federal appeals court this week, the judges ruled that the trial judge should consider lengthening the 28-month prison sentence given to her.

Lynne was a civil rights lawyer, sentenced in October 2006 to 28 months in prison for helping her client, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, contact the Islamic Group, which the U.S. government lists as a terrorist organization. Prosecutors said messages Stewart passed on for Abdel-Rahman could have incited violence in Egypt. And we are supposed to be upset about this why?

Evidence in the case against Stewart included a call the lawyer made to a Reuters correspondent in Egypt in which she read a statement issued by the cleric saying he had withdrawn his support for the Islamic Group's ceasefire in Egypt. For this she goes to jail? For conveying the wishes of her client to the media?

In its nearly 200-page ruling, the U.S. second circuit appeals court ordered Stewart to begin serving her sentence immediately. I am not rushing out to read the opinion and to be sure, the judges probably dotted every ‘I’ and crossed every ‘T’ to make sure they had a clear conscience in convicting the activist attorney. I still don't by it. This was an activist the Bush Administration had targeted for years.

I think the government was also playing the game like they did with drug attorneys for years, failing to clearly distinguish between their role in the adversary system and assuming instead the attorneys are simply adversaries, and as bad as the persons they represent. It’s an era of zero tolerance in New York, and I suspect the prisoners from Guantanamo won’t be getting too much of a fair shake with civil juries in Manhattan either.

Our government has always had to demonize someone and so they must necessarily find a whipping boy. In this case, it became a whipping grandma. Free Lynne Stewart. Lock up Scott Rothstein instead. He committed financial terrorism and has apparently hurt a lot more people.


  1. You really are a radical , supporting a terrorist lawyer, what next legal pot?

  2. Lynne Stewart is a jerk who got what she deserved. Her client is an Islamic fascist gangster who would as soon put her and all woman in burquas and the rest of Western civilization in a grave.

    Stewart had no business using her attorney-client relationship to pass public messages to the rest of his gang.

    If she were representing John Gotti and passed a similar message to his gang would you feel differently?

    When a lawyer can no longer tell the difference between being an advocate for a client’s legal cause and his political cause she has stepped over the line and runs the risk of becoming a co-conspirator.

    Lynne Stewart got off lightly.

    Sam Fields