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!
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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