From the 2006 News Archive
Plaintiff’s Counsel in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld Emphasizes Importance of Rights for All During Sept. 11 Commemoration Address
On the day that President Bush unveiled to the nation his new plan for trying suspected terrorists, the School of Law hosted an address by the lawyer responsible for overturning the administration’s previous system. Navy Lt. Commander Charles Swift
, who represented Salim Ahmed Hamdan in this summer’s landmark Supreme Court case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld
, spoke before a standing room only crowd at the Center for Health and Homeland Security’s
September 11th Commemoration Panel Discussion on Wednesday, September 6.
The Hamdan case was supposed last for two to three weeks and secure a quick conviction for a man alleged to be Osama bin Laden’s chauffeur, but reached the highest court in the United States after Swift and his legal team decided that the original plan for the military commission set up by the Bush administration within the Guantanamo Bay prison complex was "inherently wrong" because of its limitations to non-American citizens and its standards professing "full and fair trials for separate but equal," said Swift. "When you divide us and them where justice is concerned, that’s where you run into problems."
Swift lauded the team of attorneys he worked with during the process, which is now approaching the four-year mark. He recounted his thoughts during the events of 9/11 as well as the effects of their aftermath. "We missed the scale of that moment as lawyers...and the leaders of the free world."
Swift also talked about being selected as a defense attorney for the commissions and the orders he was given by a superior officer – and ignored – to secure a guilty plea for his client. "The most important thing is a jury of your peers," Swift told the crowd of law students and faculty. "Our founding fathers understood that."
Lt. Com. Swift was praised by CHHS Director and Professor of Law Michael Greenberger for his courage in defending Mr. Hamdan before the federal court. "It’s one thing to take on the federal government, but to be part of an institution and agree to take the institution on...is the highest form of courage," he said. In representing Mr. Hamdan, "He placed the rule of law above all others," Professor Greenberger said.
While the Hamdan case has been compared in the media to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education, Swift remained skeptical that the ruling was set in stone. "Like Brown, there will be a round 2 and possibly a round 3."