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ACLU lawyer to speak on Ashcroft v. al-Kidd


Lee Gelernt, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyer who litigated the controversial Ashcroft v. al-Kidd case in the U.S. Supreme Court, will speak in the Apfelbaum Family Courtroom in Lewis Katz Building in University Park, Pa., on October 28 at 1 p.m. The event will be simulcast to Room 104, Lewis Katz Hall, Carlisle, Pa.

Abdullah al-Kidd, was a prominent football player at the University of Idaho was arrested in 2003 as he was boarding a flight to Saudi Arabia, where he planned to study. He was held for 15 nights under the federal material-witness statute because he was to testify in the trial of Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, who some suspected (but later acquitted) of running a terrorist website. Al-Kidd was never charged with a crime or called as a witness and was ultimately released. Al-Kidd sued John Ashcroft, U.S. Attorney General in 2003, and said he was strip searched, shackled, interrogated without a lawyer present and treated as a terrorist.

Gelernt will talk about the case, which deals with the federal “material witness” statute, and its alleged misuse by the Bush Administration post 9/11 to take individuals suspected of terrorism ties into custody despite the absence of probable cause, and to hold them without any definite purpose of later calling them as a witness. ACLU lawyers said al-Kidd was one of 70 Muslim men who were similarly treated. The case also addressed the personal liability for damages of then Attorney General Ashcroft.

Gelernt has been an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union since 1992 where he works on immigration and national security issues. He currently holds the positions of deputy director of the ACLU’s national Immigrants’ Rights Project, and director of the Project’s Program on Access to the Courts. He has argued numerous groundbreaking civil rights cases at all levels of the federal court system, including in the United States Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeals for the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits. Gelernt has also testified as an expert before the United States Senate on habeas corpus and judicial review issues. In addition to his work at the ACLU, Gelernt is an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School and a visiting lecturer in clinical law at Yale Law School.

The event is co-sponsored by the American Constitution Society (ACS) for Law and Policy and is part of the Celebration of Pro Bono Week being held at the Law School.

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