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.”
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Wednesday granted a rehearing in the case of a man suing the government for allegedly invading his privacy with wiretaps, clandestine surveillance, and repeated airport searches, The BLT reports.
The move is a win for the Justice Department. The D.C. Circuit ruled that Scott Tooley had standing to sue in February, though the panel described his claims as “thin.”
In his suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Tooley complained of intermittent clicking on his phone line — evidence, apparently, of a wiretap — and said he has been frequently detained and searched at airports. He named a roster of government officials in his initial complaint (the trial judge tossed his suit), but on appeal the list was pared down to the attorney general, the secretary of Homeland Security and the acting administrator of the Transportation Security Administration.
In the Febraury opinion, Senior Judge Stephen Williams and Judge David Tatel voted to remand Tooley’s case for further proceedings, on the grounds that the district court was required to accept Tooley’s allegations as true. Chief Judge David Sentelle dissented, equating Tooley’s claims to “fanciful beliefs.”
Justice appellate lawyer Teal Luthy Miller wrote in the government’s petition for rehearing,
Allowing this and other fanciful suits to go forward can subject the government to burdensome and ultimately pointless discovery in a sensitive area of national security, with perhaps an ultimate need to assert the state secrets privilege, even when the complaint offers no plausible basis for believing that the government had any connection with purported surveillance of the plaintiff.
The D.C. Circuit will hear the case sitting en banc. Arguments are scheduled for October.