Deanne C. Seimer, who as general counsel for the Defense Department, bosses the largest contingent of the 20,000 federally employed lawyers, attacked a presidential reorganization paper on government lawyers that she thought was biased in favor of the Justice Department and against the rest of the government lawyers.
"The study is quite shallow and the recommendations contain little of substance," was how Seimer began her presentation during a discussion on "President Carter's plans for the government lawyer" at the American Bar Association's annual meeting here last week.
Her language got stronger as her presentation continued, for a minute it looked like a full-scale war between the Justice Department - which employs 3,608 lawyers, far fewer than the 5,247 who work for Defense - and the rest of the government agencies that were represented, symbolically, by Seimer.
The study, completed in March, now is in the White House Office of Management and Budget. Seimer said after the ABA session that the general counsels of agencies throughout government want to keep it there until changes are made in its main thrust - which she thinks keeps too much litigating power in the Justice Department.
If no changes are made, she said, lawyers for agencies throughout the government have vowed to take their case directly to President Carter.
The study is part of the President's efforts to streamline the federal bureaucracy.At first federal lawyers - recalling Carter's statement at his first cabinet meeting that suggested there were too many lawyers in government - feared its aim would be to cut their numbers.
Instead it focused on the continual turf battle over who shall have the prime role of taking government cases to court - the Justice Department or the affected agencies that feel they could better represent themselves.
Seimer said Justice's authority as the most important legal voice in government has been eroding and that erosion has intensified during the Carter administration "for the same reason private firms lose clients - a lack of good client relations and a lackof good results."
She forcefully echoed the complaints of agencies throughout the government that Justice Department lawyers frequently are inexperienced and know little about the special aspects of the law, they have to argue in court, often against highly experienced lawyers representing private industry.
Justice Departmetn attorneys, the insisted, "don't bring the legal knowledge that's necessary" to win cases for the government agencies.
Earl Silbert, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, agreed that agencies complain they get short shrift from the Justice Department when they want to take cases to court.
He refused to concede that Justice Department lawyers are inexperienced and ineffective and said that they can - do a good job representing other agencies in government.
If there are deficiencies, Silbert said, they can be corrected without stripping Justice of much of its authority to be the major courtroom lawyer for the government.
"The fact that main Justice has problems doesn't mean giving away any more of its litigating authoritiy. To do that would mean having 10 or 12 agencies with litigating problems instead of just one," added Judy Areen, who ran the study.
Robert Weinberg, the president of the D.C. Bar Association, was threatened with expulsion from the ABA's House of Delegates when he protested the passage without any debate of important new standards on criminal justice.
These standards have no weight of law, but they carry enormous influence with state and U.S. appeals court judges who continually cite them in their decisions. Some of the nine revised standards passed last week are controversial, including one that would allow prosecutors to appeal sentences if they think they are too light.
Weinberg, a partner in the Washington firm of Williams and Connolly, insisted the new standards deserved some debate by teh ABA's policy-making body. But Stanley M. Brown, the New Hampshire lawyer who was Speaker of the House of Delegates, ruled Weinberg out of order for raising his question during a vote. When Weinberg persisted, Brown threatened to have him thrown bodily off the floor of the house.
ABA jottings: Erwin N. Griswold, former solicitor general, now a partner in the Washington firm of Jones, Day, Reavis and Pogue, was presented the ABA medal, the bar association's highest award, for his "service to the ause of American jurisprudence" . . . Attorney General Griffin Bell brought a bunch of his lawyer cronies from Georgia to CBS' studio here to watch him joust with reporters on "Face the Nation" . . . New York Times executive editor A. M. Rosenthal, whose reporters are embattled in courts in as disparate places as Hackensack, N.J., and Moscow, U.S.S.R., replied to a lawyer who claimed to be a steady Times reader. "And I'm a steady contributor to lawyers."
From a collectionof children's sayings about lawyers printed in the ABA magazine, "Barrister:" "A good thing to remember about needing a lawyer is don't."