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Saying the firm was following common procedure, San Francisco attorney James Brosnahan on Monday downplayed Morrison & Foerster’s decision to distance itself from his representation of a U.S. citizen caught fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Brosnahan, a MoFo partner, confirmed Monday that he and the other attorneys at the San Francisco-based firm representing John Walker Lindh will do so in their own name rather than as representatives of Morrison & Foerster. “We are representing John Lindh in our own name,” Brosnahan said. “In every other respect nothing has changed.” He added that his status at the firm remains the same. He said the practice of having individual attorneys represent clients in their own name is “a standing procedure at Morrison & Foerster,” which is used once or twice every year. Nevertheless, Bay Area defense lawyers expressed surprise at MoFo’s decision to exclude its name from the case. “I never heard of it, and I find it quite bizarre,” said John Keker, a partner at San Francisco-based Keker & Van Nest. “Jim Brosnahan is very much a part of Morrison and very much part of making it what it is today.” Brosnahan took on the high-profile case in late November or early December, soon after Lindh was captured in Afghanistan. Brosnahan said he got a call one Sunday afternoon from Frank Lindh, the father of John Walker Lindh, in which Lindh asked Brosnahan to represent his son. Brosnahan said he did not know Frank Lindh personally, but that Lindh, an in-house attorney for PG&E Co., was part of an opposing counsel team in one of his previous cases. One of the best-known litigators in the Bay Area, Brosnahan has handled several high-profile political cases. Most recently, he represented Kevin Artt, an alleged member of the Irish Republican Army, in his legal battle against extradition to the United Kingdom. And, in 1992, he served as the lead trial attorney in Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh’s case against former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. Brosnahan bristled at the characterization that MoFo had “divorced” itself from Lindh’s defense team. “If you use that word in connection with this matter, that will be very, very wrong,” Brosnahan said. MoFo Chairman Keith Wetmore said Brosnahan and the other attorneys asked the firm to take the case under their own names. “James Brosnahan recognized the difficulty of managing security risks in a case like this,” said Wetmore, who was traveling in China on Monday. “There is concern that a high-profile case like this would enflame the worst kind of passion.” Though the firm’s name is not being used as a part of the case, it’s not clear how Brosnahan and the other attorneys will be able to completely separate MoFo from Lindh. Brosnahan and Wetmore both stressed that the attorneys working on Lindh’s case are still fully integrated members of the firm and remain active in other litigation. Other attorneys at MoFo acknowledged that the case has been extremely controversial within the firm. One attorney said a partner sent an e-mail message to other partners saying the firm’s procedures for taking Lindh as a client had not been followed. Brosnahan asserted that “all procedures that we follow in the intake of a case were followed.” Asked if partners typically vote on whether to take a case, he reiterated that he had followed the firm’s procedures. Keker said most firms have a case intake procedure that is primarily designed to avoid conflicts. “We rarely vote on whether to take a case,” Keker said of the policies at his own firm. But, he added, when a case is controversial, partners usually make a joint decision whether to take it. While some attorneys question MoFo’s decision to get involved in the case, others voiced support. “Criminal defense lawyers shouldn’t be identified with their clients,” Keker said. “We’re not marrying them. We’re representing them.”

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