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Stephen I. Vladeck: Trying terrorism suspects in civilian courts

Professor Stephen I. Vladeck

Professor Stephen I. Vladeck

The American Constitution Society for Law and Society  (ACS) recently posted Professor Vladeck’s issue brief. From ACS’s website:

ACS is pleased to distribute “Trying Terrorism Suspects in Article III Courts: The Lessons of United States v. Abu Ali,” an Issue Brief by Stephen I. Vladeck, Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law. This paper is being released amidst ongoing public debate about whether the federal court system should be used to try terrorism suspects, or whether the trials should be conducted by military commissions. In this Issue Brief, Professor Vladeck examines the suitability of the federal court system through the lens of a significant post-September 11, 2001, criminal prosecution – the trial of Ahmed Omar Abu Ali. The author discusses the innovative procedures that the court devised in order to deal with particular difficulties presented in the trial and, ultimately, Professor Vladeck concludes that the case “emerges as an unvarnished example of how the civilian justice system can handle high-profile criminal terrorism cases raising novel logistical challenges.” As the author states:

“If Abu Ali proves anything, it is that every case raises a unique set of practical, procedural, and substantive challenges. But perhaps it proves a bit more: where unique national security concerns are implicated, Abu Ali suggests that the courts will attempt to reach such accommodations that take into account both the government’s interest and the fundamental protections to which defendants are entitled, keeping in mind Justice Frankfurter’s age-old admonition that ‘the safeguards of liberty have frequently been forged in controversies involving not very nice people.’ Abu Ali reminds us that sometimes, the law is set up properly to resolve the tension between the government’s interests and the defendant’s rights, even if reasonable minds could argue (in this area of the law, as in any other) that judges sometimes get it wrong.”

HT: Neal Sonnett

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.