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Last week Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) released ethics opinions from two law professors which defended the participation of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts Jr. in a case challenging the legality of the Pentagon’s military trials at Guant�namo Bay. The letters respond to charges that Roberts’ involvement in the case, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, was improper and created the appearance of a conflict of interest, because Roberts was simultaneously meeting with Bush administration officials about a possible seat on the high court. One letter defending Roberts came from Thomas Morgan of George Washington University Law School. The other was by Ronald Rotunda, a George Mason University law professor. But Rotunda, it turns out, may have his own conflict of interest. From June 2004 to June 2005, Rotunda worked full time as a special adviser to Pentagon General Counsel William Haynes II�a fact Rotunda failed to disclose in his 15-page letter. In an interview, Rotunda confirmed that he had been involved in issues similar to those raised by Hamdan but said he did not work directly on the case. Rotunda said that he did not mention his Pentagon work in the letter because Specter already knew about it. “I don’t know what I was supposed to do,” Rotunda huffed. “Should I include a long list of disclosures on every piece of legal advice I give, like you get when you buy a bottle of Benadryl?” Senate Judiciary Committee spokesman Blain Rethmeier declined comment. Roberts, a D.C. Circuit judge, was assigned to the panel that heard the Hamdan case. According to answers Roberts gave in a Senate questionnaire, he met with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on April 1, 2005, six days before oral arguments in Hamdan. In July, four days after the panel ruled unanimously in favor of the government, President George W. Bush selected Roberts to fill the vacancy left by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. New York University law professor Stephen Gillers co-authored an Aug. 17 article for Slate online magazine critical of Roberts’ decision not to recuse himself in Hamdan. Gillers calls Rotunda’s failure to disclose his connection to the Pentagon equally incomprehensible. “Disclosure was ethically appropriate, especially for someone who teaches in the field,” Gillers says.
Vanessa Blum can be contacted at [email protected]

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