Paul Sanford, 1956-2006
I did not know Sanford personally, though I had occasion to write about him last year, when, as a mysterious unknown, he made headlines at a White House Press Conference. Sanford asked Scott McClellan whether if the Bush administration exposed a secret CIA operative, did that not constitute treason:
Q Yes, thank you. There has been a lot of speculation concerning the meaning of the underlying statute and the grand jury investigation concerning Mr. Rove. The question is, have the legal counsel to the White House or White House staff reviewed the statute in sufficient specificity to determine whether a violation of that statute would, in effect, constitute treason?MR. McCLELLAN: I think that in terms of decisions regarding the investigation, those are matters for those overseeing the investigation to decide.
Most of Sanford’s efforts, however, were in the areas of free speech and civil rights:
Paul Sanford, an attorney who made his mark on Santa Cruz with his defense of homeless and indigent residents and once asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, died Sunday in an apparent suicide. (link)
Sanford, 50, was raised in Boston and earned a master’s degree in political science at Boston College. He moved to Santa Cruz about 20 years ago and in 1996 earned his law degree from Monterey College of Law, where he also taught Constitutional law classes and volunteered with the school’s small claims clinic. He worked at the Volunteer Centers of Santa Cruz County for 14 years.
Friends and colleagues remembered him as a brilliant and creative attorney and a tireless advocate for poor people and the principles of the Constitution, a copy of which he always carried in a pocket.
“We lost a gem,” attorney Kate Wells said. “He was a champion of the poor and a wonderful asset to the legal community and the community at large.”
There are indications that the White House episode resulted in major distress for Sanford:
…Sanford was in court on his own behalf, in a breach of contract and defamation lawsuit against Michael Zwerling, the owner of KSCO and KOMY radio stations. According to his attorney and friend Shawn Mills, Sanford alleged that Zwerling broke a 2005 agreement to sell airtime to Sanford and provide him with media credentials. Zwerling declined to comment.
According to media accounts, the disagreement between the men started after Sanford used a KOMY press credential to join the White House press corps and asked then-press secretary Scott McClellan if the administration’s leak of Valerie Plame’s identity was tantamount to treason. It’s unclear what will happen with the case, which was set for trial in February.
“I know it was particularly troubling for him,” Brennan said. “He felt he was treated very poorly and it was difficult for him to understand.”
A tragic (and somewhat mysterious) end to a brief but admirable career. Possibly a casualty in Bush’s war against the world and the US Constitution.