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CCE Program: “Secret Courts, Secret Law”

CCE’s Board was treated to a special panel program on December 12th organized by the CCE Bench Bar Media Dialogue Project, entitled “Secret Courts, Secret Law.” The panel discussed a wide range of thought-provoking questions, including under what circumstances are secret courts created in the US legal system? What are the unique challenges that arise with regard to litigating secret law or before secret courts? What might the public not appreciate about the costs of secret courts/secret law and are these costs unavoidable? Could secret courts be differently configured while still respecting the underlying justification of secrecy? How does “precedent” work in a system in which the rulings at issue are not publicly available? What are the broader impacts that secret courts and secret law have on our common law system? What lessons should we take away from the military commissions/FISA Court with regard to the desirability of secret law and secret courts? These were a selection of the interesting issues discussed. All in all, it was a well-received and informative program. 

The distinguished moderator and panel were:

  • Professor Stephen Vladeck, program moderator and professor of law at the American University Washington College of Law, a nationally recognized expert on the role of the federal courts in the war on terrorism;
  • Barry Coburn, CCE Board Director from Coburn & Greenbaum, whose extensive criminal and civil legal experience has included the representation of Omar Khadr, the youngest detainee at the Guantanamo prison facility;
  • Siobhan Gorman, the national security reporter for The Wall Street Journal, who has covered national security and intelligence issues for over 15 years;
  • William Kuebler, a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy and Assistant Professor at the US Naval Academy, who most recently served as defense counsel with the Office of Military Commissions in DC and Guantanamo Bay, where he was detailed to the military commission cases of Ghassan Al Sharbi and Omar Khadr;
  • Hon. James Roberton, a Neutral with the resolution firm of JAMS and, prior to that, a US District Judge in DC for more than 15 years, including service on the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court;
  • David Schulz, a partner at Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, who has represented journalists and news organizations for more than 30 years; and
  • Kenneth Wainstein, a partner and co-chair of the Business Fraud Group at Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft who, prior to his private practice, served as Homeland Security Advisor and General Counsel to the FBI.

Thanks to Dialogue Committee co-chairs Laura Handman and Jim McLaughlin for their leadership of the Dialogue Project and their time and effort to organize the excellent panel.

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