American Taliban's attorney prepared

Sunday, December 23, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO -- There is probably no one in greater need of a good attorney in the world today than John Walker Lindh, the 20-year-old American captured fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

So it comes as little surprise his parents have hired San Francisco legal whiz James Brosnahan.

For 35 years, people in desperate situations have turned to Brosnahan for help -- television stars, Irish fugitives, major corporations accused of selling defective products.

When special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh needed someone to go after Casper Weinberger in 1992, Brosnahan got the former defense secretary indicted on charges of concealing thousands of pages of notes from congressional investigators and prosecutors.

Six years earlier, Brosnahan testified against William H. Rehnquist's nomination for chief justice of the Supreme Court, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee that as an assistant U.S. attorney in Phoenix in 1962 he saw Rehnquist at a polling place when other Republican poll watchers harassed black and Hispanic voters.

"He's a man of the highest integrity and has an amazing level of conviction about the role of an advocate in a free society," said Ed Nevin, president elect of the American Board of Trial Advocates. "He helps people who are in need of a lawyer's services at a highest level."

Irish fugitive

In 1998, Brosnahan convinced a federal appeals court to end extradition efforts against Kevin Barry Artt, an Irish fugitive who had escaped the notorious Maze prison 15 years earlier and fled to California.

In 1997, Brosnahan saved 3M -- Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. of St. Paul, Minn. -- from huge claims by convincing jurors that a woman's health problems had little to do with her silicone breast implants.

But this time, Brosnahan, 67, may be fighting the battle of his life.

"What he has to do is mount a very effective campaign to make sure his client is not caught up in the whole conflict, but just seen as the sorry, pathetic kid that he is," said Stanley S. Arkin, a New York defense lawyer.

Lindh has become for many a focus for the nation's wrath. Suggested punishments have included everything from revoking his citizenship to executing him for treason.

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