The idea seemed like a fine way to make a name for themselves. "No existing book or edited volume captures this most important and exciting legal debate of the decade," the two D.C. Circuit clerks wrote in their proposal for The Detention Debate: Habeas Corpus and the War on Terror.
But the plan has only called unwanted attention to the two men, Derek Smith and Blaine Evanson, who were forced to drop their book proposal this week after allegations that their involvement posed a conflict of interest with their jobs.
The problems arose when their proposal, which was emailed to constitutional scholars across the country, surfaced on a blog. University of Miami professor Steve Vladeck raised questions about how this affected their work as clerks for a Judge A. Raymond Randolph. Randolph, of course, not only authored the most recent decision about the Guantanamo detainees, Boumediene v. Bush, but was also the scribe for two cases already overturned by the Supreme Court, Rasul v. Bush and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.
It was a connection the two clerks flaunted, noting that the they brought a "unique perspective" to edit submissions because "they have spent a year in the legal trenches" as clerks on the D.C. Circuit "during a year that saw several landmark detention decisions likely to end up before the Supreme Court."
But the two men forgot one key thing: to tell (or, rather, to ask permission from) their judge. That is until after the comments began surfacing in the blogosphere.
The men referred comments to Randolph who said in an interview, "They messed up and I have instructed them to withdraw it."
Asked whether he thought the proposal created a conflict of interest, Randolph replied, "The most I’ll say is maybe there is a technical way to defend it, but it doesn’t comport to my standards."
Randolph, who has a total of four clerks, would not say whether the men had been assigned to any of the Guantanamo cases, but said Smith and Baines will finish out their year-long clerkship with him.