Kansas disbars lawyer involved in Guantanamo case

By TONY RIZZO | The Kansas City Star | Published: November 21, 2012

The Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the disbarment of a former U.S. Navy lawyer court-martialed for disclosing classified information about detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Matthew H. Diaz, who now lives in New York, was licensed to practice law in Kansas in 1995 after graduating from law school at Washburn University in Topeka.

Diaz was commissioned in the Navy in 2004 to serve as a judge advocate and was assigned to the naval base in Cuba where more than 500 people were detained.

There, concerned about the legal and physical treatment of prisoners, Diaz printed out a list in early 2005 of all the detainees and anonymously mailed them to a civil rights lawyer in New York. That lawyer turned them over to the judge handling litigation in the cases of detainees.

After an investigation Diaz was charged with disclosing classified material. In 2007, he was convicted at a court-martial, dismissed from the Navy and sentenced to six months in prison.

According to the Kansas Supreme Court decision filed Wednesday, Diaz’s concern about the treatment of Guantanamo detainees stemmed in part from what had happened to his own father.

When he was a teenager, his father, who worked as a nurse, was charged with 12 counts of murder for injecting patients with a lethal dose of Lidocaine.

His father was convicted and sentenced to death, but died in prison of natural causes in 2010. Diaz had strong feelings that the Guantanamo detainees should have the same legal rights to appeal as his father had.

In arguing his case to the Kansas Supreme Court earlier this fall, Diaz said he knows the “foolish and criminal” actions he took were wrong, and he apologized to the court, his colleagues and particularly to Washburn, which he said gave him a chance that other schools wouldn’t.

During that hearing, he said he had been working in a non-lawyer capacity with the public defender in the Bronx and was awaiting the results of the Kansas proceeding before applying to be admitted as a lawyer in New York.

Diaz asked the court to follow the recommendation of the state’s disciplinary administrator and re-instate his license, which had been suspended.

But the Supreme Court opted for disbarment, citing the previous ruling from military courts and his “admitted selfish reasons for the clandestine disclosure of classified information.”

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