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Law Day 2011 Law Day 2011 Home

Hartford JD and the Hartford County Bar Association
Celebrate Law Day and the Spirit of John Adams

 
HARTFORD, April 29, 2011—John Adams, our country’s second president and a courageous believer and advocate of the rule of law, wouldn’t hesitate to quaff an ale with lawyers like M. Alexander Bowie, II. In fact, Adams would probably welcome Bowie into his firm with great aplomb!
 
Attorney M. Alexander Bowie, IIBowie, the keynote speaker at the Law Day ceremony at the Hartford Judicial District Courthouse, embodies the qualities celebrated by this year’s theme—The Legacy of John Adams, from Boston to Guantanamo—through his often unpopular defense of a number of detainees at the isolated U.S. prison.
 
An attorney with Day Pitney, Bowie answered the call when his firm asked him to team with a group of lawyers that the firm had selected to defend several Guantanamo detainees pursuing petitions for writs of habeas corpus.
 
Little did he realize at the time that the work would not only prove unpopular but perhaps even dangerous and would illicit threats and snubs—much like the reaction John Adams received when he agreed to defend British soldiers who had fired upon an angry mob in what has been dubbed the Boston Massacre.
 
After a colleague asked Bowie at a Christmas party what his wife thought of him representing terrorists and, after a subsequent extended conversation with his wife, Bowie examined his reasons for agreeing to the assignment and, ultimately, decided that he must continue.
 
“What emerged was my strong belief that this was one of those times when our nation needed people to come forward and to stand up for certain of our fundamental principles,” said Bowie. “The way I saw it, a group of powerless people was threatened with treatment at our country’s hands that was inconsistent with our society’s commitment to the rule of law and what I believe our nation represents—or at least should represent.
 
“Because coming to the aid of those powerless people was unpopular, those in our society, such as myself, who were in a position to help, needed to do something because others would not, and I felt I had that obligation both to the detainees, as well as  ultimately to our nation,” he continued.
 
“Looking back on history, I came to the view that the rights of those on the wrong side of an issue or situation at a given moment of heightened passions, too often had been sacrificed because of the unwillingness of those able to help to take a stand, whether because of the risks of doing so or the unpleasantness of the cause,” Bowie added.
 
Bowie and his colleagues from Day Pitney are defending two men from Yemen—Fadhel Hentif and Abdurrahman al Shubati, neither of whom had anything to do with 9/11 or, as Bowie put it, “any other hostilities against our nation.” After a Yemeni-trained terrorist attempted to blow up an airliner over Detroit over Christmas 2009, the President placed a moratorium on returning any detainees to Yemen. Consequently, Hentif and al Shubati remain at Guantanamo for their ninth year.
 
“In my opinion,” Bowie said in closing, “our nation’s name is stained by the events of Guantanamo. I believe in time it will surpass Dred Scott and the detention of Japanese Americans during World War II as among the most shameful moments in our nation’s history. But that is for others to worry about. My hopes, and my efforts, are directed at the small step of getting our clients home.”
 
Following Bowie’s speech, the Hon. Marshall K. Berger, Jr., Administrative Judge for the Hartford Judicial District, introduced Attorneys Anne Kelly Zovas and Gerald L. Garlick, co-chairs of the Hartford County Bar Association’s (HCBA) Scholarship Committee. The two presented Hartford Public Senior Lizuanette Arroyo with its annual $500 scholarship.
 
Arroyo, who will graduate sixth in her class this year, will attend Eastern Connecticut State University where she will play soccer, basketball and softball. She is a member of the Hartford Public’s Law & Government Academy and is a Red Cross volunteer and has done other extensive volunteer work in her community.
 
Attorney Lori Rittman Clark then presented the HCBA 2011 Pro Bono Award to Attorney Sarah Poriss, a solo practitioner, who has worked with those facing foreclosure or massive credit card debt.
 
Finally, Attorney Clark presented Bruce Clements of the Children’s Law Center of Connecticut, the HCBA 2011 Liberty Bell Award for its advocacy of children and their rights. Attorney Debra C. Ruel accepted the award.
 
Attorney James T. Tancredi, President of the Hartford County Bar, offered closing remarks then introduced members of the Hall High School Chorus—Miriam Klau, Laura Cohen, Paulina Rowe and Maura McDermott—who sang The Star Spangled Banner.
 
Following the ceremony, Judge Berger and Attorney Tancredi discussed the keynote speaker’s remarks with students from Hartford Public’s Law & Government Academy. Judge Berger often hosts these students at the Hartford JD for discussions on various topics.

Mouseover images below to view captions

Maura McDermott, Laura Cohen and Miriam Klau, members of the Hall High School Chorus, sing The Star Spangled Banner. Keynote speaker Attorney M. Alexander Bowie II Montage from Hartford Superior Court 2011 Law Day Event

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