Lachman Calls on Lieberman
to Support ACLU Amicus for Pollard

Justice4JP Release - January 9, 2001

In a December 21, 2000 letter, NY State Senator Seymour Lachman calls on U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman to support the ACLU Amicus brief for Jonathan Pollard. Senator Lachman reminds Lieberman of his stated preference that the courts, not the politicians, deal with the Pollard case. Lachman points out that the ACLU Amicus brief supports Jonathan Pollard's constitutional right to have his attorney gain access to documents that are essential to his case for executive clemency and calls on Lieberman to join him in supporting the brief. A copy of Senator Lachman's letter follows. To date, Senator Lieberman has not responded.


THE SENATE
STATE OF NEW YORK

December 21, 2000

The Hon. Joseph I. Lieberman
The United States Senate
Hart Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Lieberman:

I write to ask whether you will lend your support publicly to an amicus curiae brief filed by the American Civil Liberties Union's National Capital Area chapter, which supports a request by Attorney Eliot Lauer to be granted access to classified documents believed to be the basis for Jonathan Jay Pollard's prison sentence.

Vital principles of American Constitutional freedoms are at stake in Mr. Lauer's request, which is limited in scope and purpose.

As the ACLU brief notes, Mr. Lauer seeks to prepare an appeal for executive clemency from the President of the United States. Under our national adversarial system of justice, proper operation of the clemency process depends upon counsel's ability to develop all relevant facts in the matter, and to respond to the adversary's arguments.

Mr. Lauer has obtained from the Government a national security clearance necessary to handle intelligence information classified as "top secret." He has done so in order to seek access to sealed portions of his client's court file containing classified information, which served as a basis for his client's sentencing.

To date, the Government has denied consent, stating that Mr. Lauer does not have a "need to know" the classified information.

The ACLU brief, a copy of which is enclosed, presents reasoned arguments, based upon Federal Court decisions, for providing counsel access to classified data when counsel has the requisite security clearance.

At stake is a fundamental principle of American Constitutional freedom: a defendant's right to have counsel assist in judicial proceedings. The ACLU brief states the issue clearly and succinctly: "Allowing the Government to decide whether defendant's counsel will have access to his client's file will deprive the client of his right to have counsel assist him in seeking clemency."

I recognize, Senator, that, on a previous occasion, you indicated your preference that issues relative to Jonathan Jay Pollard's prison term are matters best left to the courts, "which have access to the full breadth of evidence and testimony in criminal cases, (and) are in the best position to decide matters of guilt, innocence and sentencing ...", and that "They should do so without interference from elected legislators, or our courts would not be truly free and independent." [see Lieberman's Response]

As an elected public official, I appreciate, understand and share your view regarding the necessity of maintaining the integrity of our nation's judicial proceedings, free from interference by the Legislative Branch.

In this specific instance, however, Mr. Lauer appears to confront an attempt by the Executive Branch to deny access to information necessary to prepare adequately for a proceeding that is a Constitutionally-guaranteed right of individuals who have been sentenced by our judicial system.

Mr. Lauer's client, Jonathan Jay Pollard, waived his right to trial and admitted his guilt when he appeared in court. Mr. Pollard is a convicted espionage agent, and he has been deprived of his freedom for the past 14 years [Justice4JP: 15 years] by virtue of his imprisonment. However, deprivation of freedom does not mean that he has forfeited, and is not entitled to, his right to seek executive clemency. That right remains to every prisoner under United States law, no matter how serious his crime or how long his sentence.

As Ranking Member of the United States Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, which has oversight regarding national security matters, you have measured insight into the need to balance concerns for our nation's safety with the need to safeguard those Constitutional guarantees which our national security system protects.

Given that Mr. Lauer has received clearances which qualify him to handle national security data; and given that the data to which he seeks access is critical to preparation of a Constitutional guarantee to appeal for executive clemency, the Executive Branch's denial to date of access to classified data relevant to preparing that appeal raises the specter of an abuse of power that infringes on a basic Constitutional guarantee.

I wish to inquire, respectfully and as a fellow elected public official, whether you will join me in lending your support to the brief filed by the American Civil Liberties Union's National Capital Area chapter on behalf of Mr. Lauer's request for access to materials relevant to the clemency appeal he seeks to prepare.

Sincerely,
(signed)

Seymour P. Lachman
State Senator


  • The ACLU Amicus Brief
  • The Court Case 2000 Page
  • Senator Lieberman Page