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Federal judge allows suit over Guantanamo prosecutor termination

A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Wednesday that a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] against the Library of Congress (LOC) [official website] filed on behalf of former Guantanamo prosecutor and LOC employee Col. Morris Davis [official profile, PDF] can proceed. Davis, who was employed at the LOC's Congressional Research Service (CRS) [official website], resigned as the military commissions' chief prosecutor in October 2007. Following his resignation, Davis became an outspoken critic of the commissions, writing articles, giving speeches and testifying before Congress that the system is fundamentally flawed. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed suit [JURIST report] last January, alleging that the LOC violated Davis' First and Fifth Amendment [texts] rights when it terminated him after he authored a high-profile piece criticizing the military commission system [text] for the Wall Street Journal [official website]. Observing that Davis' complaint articulated legitimate First and Fifth Amendment claims, Judge Reggie Walton denied motions by Librarian of Congress James Billington [official website] and CRS Director Daniel Mulhollan to dismiss and to stay litigation. Aden Fine, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech Privacy and Technology Project, welcomed the ruling [press release], saying "[i]ndividuals do not surrender their First Amendment rights to comment on matters of public interest when they become public employees."

Davis drew attention to the alleged iniquities of the military commissions system in 2007, when he penned a noted op-ed [text] for the New York Times [official website] about his experience as chief prosecutor. Later that year, Davis publicly said that he was pressured to use classified evidence [JURIST report] against defendants while heading serving as chief prosecutor at Guantanamo. He further claimed that the push to use classified evidence stemmed from certain military officials' desire to keep the trials closed and complained that Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann [official profile], legal adviser to the Convening Authority [official backgrounder] for the trials, should not have been supervising his work. The issue played a role in his resignation [JURIST report].

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