On April 9, 2002, a troop of armed FBI agents stormed the Brooklyn town house of sixty-two-year-old Lynne Stewart. A school librarian turned criminal lawyer, Stewart thought they had come for her life partner, longtime political activist Ralph Poynter. Flashing an arrest warrant, the agent in charge informed her otherwise, "We're not here for him, we're here for you." As her neighbors looked on, Stewart was handcuffed and taken off to jail.
Indicted under a federal law that prohibits providing "material support or resources" to organizations designated by the Secretary of State as engaging in terrorist activity, Stewart suddenly found herself in the same position as many of those she represents. However, much more fanfare attended her arrest than that of most of her clients. Attorney General John Ashcroft himself flew to New York to announce Stewart's twenty-four page indictment on two counts of lying to the government and two counts of aiding a terrorist organization. Suddenly, Stewart found herself facing substantial fines and up to fifteen years in federal prison for each count.
In this paper I will discuss the conduct that led to Stewart's prosecution and her approach to lawyering generally. I will examine whether her view of zeal and devotion is at odds with the prevailing ethics and ethos of defense lawyering, and, if not, what went wrong. I will also explore the question of boundaries in lawyering generally.
44 S. Tex. L. Rev. 31-52 (2002)
Scholarly Commons Citation
Smith, Abbe, "The Bounds of Zeal in Criminal Defense: Some Thoughts on Lynne Stewart" (2002). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. Paper 560.