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(en) El Salvador, URGENT ALERT! Police tear gas hospital ER killing at least three!

From western states cispes <wscispes@igc.apc.org>
Date Wed, 8 Mar 2000 05:44:19 -0500

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

>From: CISPES National Office <cispesnatl@people-link.net>
 There are evidently substantial misconceptions about
 the way WTO arrestees in Seattle have been defended,
 and by whom.  Because I believe strongly that direct
 action participants need excellent, aggressive and
 well-prepared legal assistance, I offer my view that
 "DAN legal" did not provide that effectively in
 Seattle, though other lawyers did, and continue to.
 The DAN legal team has not handled, directed, plannned
 or coordinated the defense of the vast majority of WTO
 cases--local public defenders have.  Other defendants
 have been represented by volunteer Seattle attorneys
 who have neither been trained nor directed by Katya
 Komisaruk or DAN.  It has been legal research and
 investigation by public defenders and local attorneys,
 often in close partnership with their clients, that
 has resulted in the dismissal of all but a handful of
 the misdemeanor cases.  The remainder are going to
 trial; we've won all of them so far.
 Nor is "DAN legal" defending those charged with
 felonies, or training the attorneys who are, most of
 whom have considerably more criminal defense
 experience than Katya Komisaruk.  Though these
 defendants may, and I hope will, get excellent
 representation from local lawyers, it is largely true
 that this is occurring without support from "the
 movement," as joi wrote.
 In many ways, maximally effective legal representation
 of WTO arrestees was compromised because DAN set up a
 legal team without significant involvement from
 attorneys with experience in local criminal courts.
 Real opportunities were lost to get folks out of jail
 and back on the streets using procedures such as writs
 of habeas corpus after arrestees had been detained
 more than 48 hours, the limit under local court
  Public defenders were prepared to bring such writs,
 but the DAN legal team had never considered them and
 was unprepared to take advantage of that option.  It
 was also, frankly, stunning to me to come to court
 while WTO arrestees were being arraigned to find 7 or
 8 members of the "DAN legal team" in court NOT
 representing any of the defendants.  When I asked why,
 it was because they were not admitted to practice in
 Washington, or were, but had no criminal experience,
 or simply had not been instructed that actually
 representing people was part of the "DAN legal"
 undertaking.  Public defenders handled all or
 virtually all of the arraignments, with no meaningful
 coordination from DAN.
 Based on experiences elsewhere, "DAN legal" seemed to
 expect the Seattle jail, courts and prosecutors to
 quickly capitulate to the sheer number of people
 arrested.  When that did not happen, and our folks
 were still in jail 3, 4, and 5 days after arrest, as
 street actions petered out, "DAN legal" had no other
 plan.  Eventually, when arrestees gave their names and
 most got released, "DAN legal" was nowhere to be found
 to make sure that the jail located and processed
 everyone; there were pockets of 20 & 40 people in
 various facilities who would have been left behind but
 for the work of public defenders who volunteered all
 weekend to vindicate what was supposed to be DAN's
 solidarity strategy of stranding no one.
 Most remarkably, "DAN legal" negotiated away one of
 the most powerful positions WTO protesters attained
 during the entire week.  On Thursday, over 500 people
 were in the King County Jail.  5,000-10,000 protesters
 defied police and marched from all over the city,
 converging on the jail, surrounding it and pledging
 not to leave until the arrestees were all released.
 This had a devastating effect on local courts and the
 jail--all processing of in-custody defendants came to
 a halt because they could not get people in and out of
 the jail securely.  Thousands were prepared to
 continue barricading the jail, for several days if
 necessary.  Many more were marching toward the jail to
 strengthen the force, when the amazing word came that
 "DAN legal" was asking people to LEAVE.  Why?  Because
 Katya Komisaruk & Co. had negotiated with the jail
 that they would get rid of the masses outside if the
 jail allowed a couple of DAN legal representatives to
 meet with the arrestees.  This was mysterious since
 DAN legal representatives had already been permitted
 to meet with arrestees alone and in groups in the
 jail.  Everyone outside left, the pressure was off,
 and the arrestees remained in custody for several more
 days.  Ironically, arrestees had more restricted
 access to counsel in the jail after DAN legal brokered
 this deal than they had had before.
 It is worth noting that the other two legal efforts
 during WTO--the challenge to the state of emergency in
 federal court and a motion for a temporary restraining
 order requiring the police to give arrestees access to
 counsel prior to their arrival at the jail--were
 brought by attorneys outside of the DAN legal team.
 As amazing and unique as the WTO protests were
 (greatly aided by the unique miscues by local
 this was hardly the first mass arrest of its size for
 our generation.  It should not be regarded as a model
 of effective legal coordination, as it apparently is
 in some quarters.  The legal successes that we've seen
 here have come despite, not because of, "DAN
 So, three lessons: (i) Katya Komisaruk is not the only
 lawyer in America who has ever thought about the
 effective representation of political arrestees, and a
 healthy dose of skepticism toward her particular
 approach to activist legal defense is warranted ;
 while the principle of jail solidarity may be
 universal, how it plays out will vary depending on
 local legal & court culture; and (iii) because local
 culture is critical to the outcome, lawyers intimately
 familiar with it need to be involved in strategic
 Lisa Daugaard
 Staff Attorney
 Seattle/King County Public Defender Assn.
 810-3rd Avenue, 8th Floor
 Seattle, WA 98104
 ph.:(206) 447-3900 ext. 729; fax: (206) 447-2349

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