US lawyer for David Hicks takes a Shine to Melbourne

IN A personal reinvention, the US military lawyer who represented Guantanamo detainee David Hicks has moved to Australia to work as a civilian lawyer.

IN A personal reinvention, the US military lawyer who represented Guantanamo detainee David Hicks has moved to Australia to work as a civilian lawyer.

Major Michael Mori, as he was known then, is ensconced in Melbourne's inner north with his wife and three sons and is already showing he is in tune with the rhythms of his adopted state: he is looking for an AFL team to support.

Meanwhile, he starts a new job today as plain Mr Mori in the Lonsdale Street offices of the plaintiff law firm Shine.

While he always had a soft spot for Australia after first visiting on a rugby tour here in his 20s and later making trips advocating for his controversial client, the move to join the Australian legal community was not a carefully laid plan, although he had been scouting for new directions.

"Australia was sort of more a fantasy my name got into the paper a little bit, but was it really going to lead to a job?"

Overlooked three times for promotion after his advocacy for Mr Hicks and public criticism of the US military commission trial processes, Mr Mori maintains a lawyerly caution these days about whether his role in the international legal saga was the kiss of death for his 22-year career in the US Marine Corps.

It is a matter of public record, however, that he was threatened in 2007 with court martial by the then chief prosecutor at Guantanamo for speaking out for Mr Hicks. Other military lawyers, according to US press reports, also found careers stalled after representing accused terrorists.

In his book Guantanamo: My Journey, Mr Hicks described Mr Mori as a "courageous man with a big heart".

Mr Mori, 46, secured his hard-fought promotion to lieutenant-colonel in 2009 and ended up as a military judge in Hawaii. He handed in his retirement papers this year, but remains technically a marine until October.

Starting out in the law as something of an accidental advocate "being a lawyer was really just a job for the Marine Corps for me" Mr Mori's philosophy is a simple one: everyone is entitled to fair representation.

Although he has to study some local subjects to gain formal admission as a solicitor in Victoria, he will immediately take a role expanding his new firm's social justice work. The intent is to work for the "Davids" over the legal "Goliaths".

Mr Mori known to family and friends by his middle name, Dan also plans to develop interests in criminal law and has been following the issue of sexual abuse in the Australian military which, he says, has echoes of what has occurred in the US.

Does he stay in touch with Mr Hicks, now a free man living in Sydney after a plea deal that he helped him strike in 2007? "You can't sit in a room with someone for 3? years and not [be friends]. Yes, I consider David a friend, I would always be there and help him if I could."

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