The New Blog

With many thanks to Phil Carter for putting together Slate ‘s new contribution to the legal blogosphere, I guess I’ll begin by taking Phil up on his offline suggestion, viz. you might want to begin by saying something about who you are and why you’re here . Roger that, Phil.

So first, it must be said, I am a late-comer and relative neophyte to the blog genre. I’ve tried once or twice OK twice but only at others’ instigation. There was this, at the invitation of Opinio Juris and in response to State Department legal adviser John Bellinger’s blog on all matters international law, human rights, and counterterror. (You’ll have to scroll down.) And earlier, there were these first entries from Guantanamo Bay in late August 2004 (again, scroll down) at the wise insistence of Human Rights First’s then-communications director, Jill Savitt. To be fair, I didn’t even really “write” much of this myself; the posts were phoned in to Jill late-night from the semiprivacy of my own room on the leeward (read mostly empty) side of the U.S. naval base there. It had taken us close to two years to convince DoD to let us send some human rights monitors down to Gitmo to watch the opening of military commission proceedings. We weren’t sure at that point if they’d let us have e-mail access from the base (or if we wanted to take advantage of it if they did). So we did as good human rights researchers do and took our own satellite phones. If nothing else, we’d call in news of all motions filed when we stopped in for Egg McMuffins en route to the “courthouse.” In any case, I’ll ask to beg a month or two of indulgence as I get used to the blog-it-yourself idea here. 

Point 2, then, must be some explanation of why I’d be blogging with John Bellinger and what I was doing eating Egg McMuffins at Gitmo in August 2004.  (A further digression to say if you think those two items are at all of interest, you either don’t spend enough time reading the rest of the news on Slate and/or will find my future posts of potential interest.) The immediate answer is that I spent from 2003-2006 (and a little of 2007) setting up and directing the Law and Security program at Human Rights First, a New York-based NGO formerly known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights that thought (and I believe still thinks) that parts of the United States’ counterterrorism response to 9/11 were concerning enough to start a domestically focused program at an organization whose major work to date had been largely about protecting international refugees, figuring out how to do justice for the victims of crimes against humanity, and supporting human rights defenders interested in, say, finding disappeared relatives in places like, say, Guatemala. Mine was a wonderful and horrible job.

I didn’t start out as a human rights lawyer. My first job after college was, of all things, writing letters, messages, and eventually speeches for then-President Clinton. No, I didn’t work in the West Wing. But I did have a blue badge. No idea if that still means anything in the post-’90s White House. From there it was off to law school, which I loved, and soon thereafter to clerking for Justice John Paul Stevens, which I loved even more. And though I thought I wanted to go straight to academia to teach constitutional law, I also thought it might be wise to learn anything about how to practice law first. So to a few mostly happy years at a law firm that let me do a marvelous amount of pro bono work and even some interesting paid cases involving some actual constitutional law as well. And just as I was starting to think about when to take the academic plunge, 9/11 happened. And there followed, it seemed to me, some of the most important constitutional events I was likely to see in my lifetime. And so it was I came to meet Phil, one of the many and inspiring members of the military I came to know while in human rights practice. And so it is that several years later than I’d intended, I find myself tip-toeing back to academia, at the moment under the very generous auspices of the Law and Public Affairs program at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

That’s got to be plenty to start. Ah, but for one other feature of my bio that I should forewarn may draw my blog focus in the appropriate season (and on rare occasion) away from government power and individual rights and toward, my apologies, what legal matters may arise in a certain professional sport. The Indianapolis Colts and I moved to Indiana the same year. Unbeknownst to the team, we have been attached ever since.

Biases I hope fully revealed, I look forward to the blogging adventure.