Michael Mone, Jr. is a partner at the Boston law firm of Esdaile, Barrett, Jacobs & Mone. He practices in all areas of civil litigation, specializing in complex tort liability, medical malpractice, motor vehicle liability, and products liability. Before joining the firm in 1999, Michael served as an assistant district attorney in Norfolk County.Â Michael lives in Melrose, Massachusetts with his wife, Aimee, and their children, Owen (16) and Olivia (14).Â
Over the past decade, Michael represented, pro bono, four men imprisoned in GuantÃ¡namo. The first two were released with little difficulty. The eventual releases of the other two men, Oybek Jabbarov, a Uzbek national, and Ali Hussein Al Shaaban from Syria, were much more challenging.
Asked what could have prepared him for this important work, Michael harkens back to his first year Property class and Professor Plater’s mantra: â€œAlways walk the land.â€ Michael has applied Professor Plater’s nugget to all his legal work â€“ whether going to the scene of the accident; or, in the case of the GauntÃ¡namo prisoners, digging deeply into the record, visiting countries to find them a new home, and personally pitching their cases to foreign governments.Â With the help of others he met along his trek, he was able to create the opportunity for the U.S. State Department to secure a new homeland for Mr. Jabbarov in Ireland. Five years later, he worked with the State Department to facilitate the transfer of Mr. Shaaban to Uruguay.
The stories of these two men illustrate the importance of Michael’s work and the need for lawyers to take on pro bono work. Both Mr. Jabbarov and Mr. Shaaban were cleared by the U.S. government to leave GuantÃ¡namo, but both remained imprisoned in Guantanamo for several years because they come from high-risk countries where there was danger of persecution or torture should they be forcibly returned. Michael described Mr. Jabbarov’s heartrending experience at a 2008 Congressional hearing:
Oybek’s 6-year long imprisonment at the hands of the United States Government is a tragic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now 30 years old, Oybek and his pregnant wife, infant son and elderly mother were living with other Uzbek refugees in northern Afghanistan in 2001 when fighting broke out between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. Oybek was not captured on the battlefield, nor was he harmed. Instead, he accepted a ride from a group of Northern Alliance soldiers he met at a road- side teahouse who said they would give him a ride to Mazar-e-Sharif. Unfortunately, instead of driving him to Mazar-e-Sharif, the soldiers took Oybek to Bagram Air Base, where they handed him over to U.S. forces, undoubtedly in exchange for a sizable bounty.
In a desperately poor, war-torn country, Oybek was an easy mark for soldiers responding to leaflets dropped throughout Afghanistan by the United States military offering thousands of dollars in cash rewards to anyone who turned over a Taliban or foreign fighter.
Had Mr. Jabbarov been forcibly returned to Uzbekistan, it could have been tantamount to a death sentence, and the U.S. government had failed to persuade any other country to accept him for resettlement. While advocating for Mr. Jabbarov in federal court, Michael “walked the land” by personally lobbying foreign governments in Europe to consider accepting his client for resettlement. Finally, in 2009, the Irish government announced it would accept the GuantÃ¡namo detainee. Mr. Jabbarov arrived in Ireland and took his first steps as a free man, after spending nearly eight years in prison. He was soon reunited with his wife and two sons. They now call Ireland â€œhome.â€
In 2010, Michael again volunteered to represent a detainee, Ali Hussein Al Shaaban, who could not be safely returned to his native Syria. Four years later, Mr. Shaaban was released from GuantÃ¡namo and transferred to Uruguay along with five other freed prisoners. Michael told the BC Law Magazine at the time, â€œI was able to talk to him [before his release], to tell him exactly when he was going to be leaving GuantÃ¡namo and that I would see him on the other side.â€ Michael met with Mr. Shaaban at a hospital in Uruguay where the men were taken. â€œI don’t know that he really believed it.â€ A career Uruguayan military officer who witnessed the men deplane told Michael, â€œin all his years in the military he had never seen six men so happy, and it brought him to tears.â€
â€œI may practice for another twenty or thirty years, but I know that this is the best thing that I will ever do as a lawyer,â€ Mone says. â€œI’m so happy that I got involved.â€
Now that his GuantÃ¡namo work is behind him, Michael is searching for his nextÂ pro bono project. “Although my work with my GuantÃ¡namo clients was, at times, incredibly frustrating and depressing, it was ultimately quite fulfilling. Now that it’s over, I am looking to find another pro bono project to work on. I think it is important for every lawyer at some point during their legal career to do pro bono work.”
Earlier this year, Michael was interviewed by on WGBH’s Greater Boston with Jim Braude regarding President Obama’s proposed plan to close the GuantÃ¡namo Bay detention camp. Michael offered his thoughts on the viability of the plan, the legal difficulties it presents, and some of the commonly raised objections. Watch the video at news.wgbh.org.