Gregory Katsas, former Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division in the Bush administration, will rejoin Jones Day next month as a partner in the issues and appeals practice, the firm announced on Thursday. He is scheduled to start on Nov. 9.
In his eight years at the department, Katsas represented the government in every federal circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. He seemed to specialize in the controversial, arguing in cases concerning the detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, the use of national security letters in counterterrorism investigations, the applicability of the state secrets privilege, the closure of immigration hearings for suspected terrorists, and the constitutionality of federal statutes on topics ranging from the Pledge of Allegiance to partial-birth abortion.
Between 2001 and 2008, Katsas held numerous front office jobs at DOJ, including Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General and Acting Associate Attorney General. He was confirmed as Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division in June 2008 — shortly after the Supreme Court issued its landmark opinion in Boumediene v. Bush, which granted Guantanamo Bay detainees the right to challenge their confinement in federal court. (Katsas argued the case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a high point of his career, he said.)
The Court’s decision came down on June 12, the day Katsas returned from his honeymoon. At the time, he was leading the Civil Division in an acting capacity. Katsas was consumed with marshaling resources and assembling records to meet court deadlines in more than 200 habeas cases in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He and his team recruited dozens of lawyers from the Civil Division and various other corners of the Justice Department for the effort.
“In my eight years at DOJ, I don’t know of any other AAG who had to ask for a detail like that,” Katsas said in a telephone interview. “We had wonderful support from Attorney General Mukasey and Deputy Attorney General Filip, and we put together a great team very quickly.”
As of early September, federal district judges had ordered the release of 29 detainees and sided with the department seven times. About 50 government lawyers are defending the detentions in court.
Before joining the department, Katsas (Princeton, Harvard Law) was an issues and appeals partner at the firm, specialing in complex appellate and trial-court litigation. He was a law clerk to Judge Edward Becker of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and to Justice Clarence Thomas.
“We are very pleased to have Greg back,” Mary Ellen Powers, partner-in-charge of Jones Day’s Washington office, said in a statement. “He was already a great lawyer, but the experience of running DOJ’s Civil Division obviously adds an extra dimension to his ability to help the firm’s clients in a wide variety of matters.”