"A good criminal defense lawyer is someone who devotes themselves to their client’s case from beginning to end, realizing that this case is the most important thing in a client’s life." - Nancy Hollander
One of the detainees Hollander represents at Guantanamo is Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who has been held since 2002 and has never been charged with a crime. Hollander has worked completely pro bono as lead counsel on Slahi’s case since she met him in 2005. “Slahi has written a bestselling book, Guantanamo Diary. He has a movie contract, and the book is now out in 17 languages, with 10 more coming out in translation soon, “she notes. “Tragically, he is not out.”
In 2010, Hollander and her co-counsel won a habeas corpus case for Slahi, and a judge ordered his speedy release—this ruling was quickly appealed by the Department of Justice, however, and they are still fighting for his release.
Hollander also represents Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Gitmo detainee facing the death penalty for his alleged involvement in the U.S.S. Cole bombing. She works with military counsel in that case, and her efforts are paid for by the American Civil Liberties Union. “Al-Nashiri is being tried in a military commission, if you can call that a court,” says Hollander, adding: “It’s not really a court in my view—we all wear little kangaroos on our lapels.”
Hollander may not have always had the high profile cases and the public intellectual credibility that she’s built now, but one gets the sense that she has always had a strong sense of ethics and responsibility to those she defends—she’s been in practice for 37 years and you can tell that the experience has only sharpened and polished her wit and her compassion.
“The most rewarding cases are those that never go to trial and nobody knows anything about,” says Hollander. “I usually tell clients early on that although everything looks bleak, something good will come of this, and they don’t know what it is yet, but it will happen. A good criminal defense lawyer is someone who devotes themselves to their client’s case from beginning to end, realizing that this case is the most important thing in a client’s life— whether it’s DWI case or a murder case, it really doesn’t matter.”