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March 23, 2009

Yale Law School dean to State

Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh will be rotating back to Washington, D.C. to serve as the legal adviser to the State Department. On Monday, the White House announced President Obama's intention to nominate Koh to the position.

Dean Koh previously served between 1998 and 2001 as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. In addition to serving as Yale Law School dean, Koh is the school's Gerard C. and Bernice Latrobe Smith Professor of International Law.

This is one intriguing pick; not least, for what it might say about the future of Guantanamo Bay. Dean Koh has a long history of legal activism; his work on behalf of Haitian refugees during the first Bush administration -- a fight in which he faced off against then-Solicitor General Kenneth Starr -- is explored in the true-life legal thriller Storming the Court by Brandt Goldstein.  An excerpt can be found here.

Dean Koh summed up his assessment of the Bush administration this way, in testimony last September before the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution. He stated:

"Seven years ago, our country was properly viewed with universal sympathy as the victim of a brutal attack. Tragically, the current Administration chose to respond with an series of unnecessary, self-inflicted wounds, which have gravely diminished our global standing and damaged our reputation for respecting the rule of law. The infamous list includes: Abu Ghraib; Guantanamo; torture and cruel treatment of detainees; indefinite detention of “enemy combatants;” military commissions; warrantless government wiretapping and datamining; evasion of the Geneva Conventions and international human rights treaties; excessive government secrecy and assertions of executive privilege; attacks on the United Nations and its human rights bodies, including the International Criminal Court; misleading of Congress; and the denial of habeas corpus..."


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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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