The Office of the General Counsel of the Department of Defense announced today that the process of pre-qualifying civilian attorneys to serve as defense counsels has begun for possible future military commissions.
The pre-qualification process is another step DoD has taken in preparation to conduct full and fair military commissions for enemy combatants subject to trial by military commission.
"Although the President has not made a determination that anyone will stand trial by Military Commission, we have the responsibility to be ready should he make that decision," said Deputy General Counsel Paul Koffsky. "Beginning the pre-qualification process will enable civilian attorneys who wish to represent an accused before military commissions to submit applications for consideration."
If held, DoD will provide an accused with a military defense counsel at no charge. Military Commission rules also allow the accused choices in legal representation by permitting civilian attorney representation at no cost to the government. Should the accused elect to be represented by a civilian defense counsel, he will still have the services of his military attorney at no cost.
"Civilian defense counsel applicants must be U.S. citizens, admitted to the practice of law in a state, district, territory or possession of the United States, or before a federal court, and not have been the subject of any sanction or disciplinary action by any court, bar, or other competent government authority for relevant misconduct," Koffsky said. "They must also be able to obtain a security clearance at the secret level or higher and sign a written agreement to comply with all applicable regulations or instructions for counsel, including any rules of court for conduct during the course of the proceedings."
The chief defense counsel or his designee will consider all applicants for qualification in the civilian defense counsel pool and make selections without regard to race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, or other non-disqualifying factor.
Civilian attorneys may be pre-qualified as members of the pool of attorneys eligible to represent an accused before military commissions, or qualified on an ad hoc basis after being requested by an accused.
The Department of Defense Military Commission Instruction No. 5, Qualification of Civilian Defense Counsel, issued May 2, 2003 contains the procedures for civilian attorneys to apply for prequalification in the civilian defense counsel pool, and is available with other issued Military Commission Instructions at: (http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/2003/b05022003_bt297-03.html).
Although civilian attorneys may pre-qualify to represent an accused before military commissions, pre-qualification of civilian defense counsel does not mean that military commission trials are imminent. Additionally, prequalification for the civilian defense counsel pool does not guarantee a pre-qualified civilian defense counsel will be selected to represent an accused before a military commission.
For media queries, the Department of Defense press office contact is Cmdr. Chris Isleib, at (703) 697-5131.