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Justice Department lawyers didn’t believe Guant�namo Bay detainee Muhammed Qasim had properly asked David McColgin, a public defender in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, to represent him. So they asked Judge John Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to decide whether Qasim’s request, which had never been put in writing, was valid. But as the parties were gearing up for an Aug. 28 hearing on the topic, military officials at Guant�namo accidentally let McColgin meet with Qasim, and at that meeting, McColgin obtained written authorization to represent the Afghani detainee, making the government’s request moot. The client meeting came as a surprise to Bates, who asked the parties to explain the mishap last week. DOJ lawyer Preeya Noronha told Bates that she had first heard about the meeting from the judge. Because of a “miscommunication between government agencies,” military officials had inadvertently allowed McColgin to meet with his client, Noronha explained at the hearing. “We do agree this was an egregious error on our part,” she said. Bates wasn’t quite satisfied; he had spent 10 hours — and his law clerk, upward of 25 hours — preparing for a hearing on whether Qasim had a right to a lawyer. “When the government comes into the court and asks for extraordinary relief, the government ought to make sure it does its job and avoids this oversight,” Bates said. Whatever hard feelings there may be, the government can’t stop Qasim from proceeding with his habeas petition
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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