Friday, September 11, 2009

One for Samuel

He is one of the nicest blokes I have ever met. No, not Samuel. Samuel is one of a new strain of Web germ.

One of those sad people, part voyeur, part stalker who leave unkind comments on blog sites under the influence of anonymous courage. No, not Samuel. Not at all. No, I refer to Lt Colonel Michael Dante Mori - Dan to his (name dropping) mates. A man of real courage.

Dan Mori, you will no doubt recall came to considerable prominence in Australia as an American Marine Corps Major, an army lawyer who was assigned to the defence of Detainee 002 - the infamous, now happily married and settled David Hicks.

Anyone interested in the legal and technical details of Hicks detention in the disgrace that was Guantanomo Bay can read Leigh Sales brilliant book
Detainee 002: The Case of David Hicks. The purpose of this post is only to mention Dan's courage and a dinner at the Drake Hotel in Chicago two years ago.

When I contributed in a small way on the sidelines of David Hicks case in the Federal Court in 2007 Dan was Major Michael Mori and he expected to stay so for some considerable time given that he had incurred the wrath of his superiors for his spirited defence of Hicks. He had been passed over for promotion twice and when I met him in Chicago in June 2007 he
expected to be cashiered under the Marine Corps "up or out" policy. I was delighted when he told me recently of his promotion. An Obama miracle.

The dinner was at the Drake Hotel, one of Chicago's swankiest old girls close to Charlie Trotter's still popular restaurant and with one of the finest banquet halls I have ever laid eyes on.
The occasion was the conclusion of the Australian Bar Association's bi-ennial offshore conference. I was the Association President at the time. I had invited Dan Mori to the dinner as our guest of Honour and to present him with Honorary Life Membership of the ABA.

In presenting this wonderful warm man with life membership I spoke to an audience that included three of the young Chicago lawyers who had worked
pro bono with Dan on David Hicks first habeas corpus application in the US. I said in part

"When Chief Defence Counsel for the Guantanamo detainees, Colonel William Gunn, appointed Dan Mori to represent David Hicks in 2003, it was thought that Hick’s case would be relatively uncomplicated. He was white, he spoke English and he had co-operated (so we are told), with his interrogators.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Dan Mori, faced with the impossible task of having his client dealt with fairly and in accordance with the Rule of Law successfully, by his advocacy for Hicks, shifted attention to the flawed military commission process.

Australian Journalist Leigh Sales has written -

“Through the force of his personality and a tireless media blitz, Mori managed to prick Australia’s conscience about Guantanamo Bay. He reminded us of the values for which his country and ours were supposed to stand.”

As Dan told the ABC in 2004 in an interview -

“America’s always had a proud tradition of ensuring fairness and due process. Now is not the time to sacrifice those values”.

It is ironic that one of the books Hicks was not allowed access to in his 5 years of detention was Harper Lee’s, “To Kill A Mockingbird” – a book which has sold over 30 million copies in 40 languages.

Ironic, because a comparison of Dan Mori to Atticus Finch is entirely justified.

One member of the “Idlers Club” observed in Harper Lee’s novel -

“Lemme tell you something now, Billy - you know the Court appointed him to defend that nigger”

The Idlers response was -

“Yeah, but Atticus aims to defend him that’s what I don’t like about it”.

Before I present Major Mori with a Certificate of Honorary Membership I should recognise the presence here tonight to witness this award of three members of the Chicago based firm of Jenner and Block, who represented David Hicks, pro bono, in his petition for Habeas Corpus in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

They are, Andy Jacobson, Andrew Vail and David Walters.

Major Michael Dante Mori, this award of Honorary Membership of the Australian Bar Association recognizes your work in consistently seeking to have your client, David Hicks, dealt with fairly and in accordance with the Rule of Law. It is the time honoured role of an advocate to stand between the State and an individual and you have done that in the finest tradition of our profession."

It was a great night and for a large banquet the food and wine wasn't half bad.

The fascinating thing was that a week later when Mary and I were in New York I had a phone call from a Professor Raymond who had been at the Chicago dinner. Jim Raymond was the Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Alabama and was friend of Harper Lee who, in her 80's, lived as a recluse but was from time to time visited by Jim and his friend who was Lee's biographer. Professor Raymond passed on to Harper Lee that her story lived on, in the form of an US Marine Corps major and was recounted 45 years on, via a speech at a dinner in Chicago. Harper Lee only ever wrote one book, but it was a good one.

Oh the menu - it was such a great night that I really can't remember anything except for the soup and the dessert. The soup was the famous Drake Hotel Bookbinder soup made from Red Snapper and the signature dish of the Cape Cod Room restaurant at the hotel which has been operating since 1933. The dessert was a Cheeseburger, Chips and Shake. That was a supersize me take on a chocolate ice cream "hamburger", apple "fries" and strawberry milk "shake".


  1. I heard Major Mori speak on several occasions during my time at law school, and met him once through my work on the Melbourne Journal of International Law. I couldn't agree more with your assessment of him - such a warm lovely man and passionate believer in the rule of law.

    Have only just discovered your blog through speaking with @stickifingers - lovely to find another member of the Melbourne legal community writing a food blog!

  2. Thanks Claire
    Are there other Melbourne law/food blogs I should be reading?

  3. The only other I'm aware of is Francesca Fogarty, a Melbourne lawyer who writes reviews for Breakfast Out (and runs a food blog of her own, which I can't seem to track down at the moment). Our profession is, however, incidental to our blogs: both Fran and I keep our blogs strictly dedicated to food rather than to law! :)

  4. Thanks Claire, Love your blog. Left a comment and have added it to my site.


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