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Richard Leon

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Richard Leon
Richard J. Leon.jpg
Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Title:   Judge
Station:   D.C.
Appointed by:   George W. Bush
Active:   2/19/2002 - Present
Preceded by:   Norma Johnson
Personal History
Born:   1949
Hometown:   South Natick, MA
Undergraduate:   Holy Cross, A.B., 1971
Law School:   Suffolk Law School, J.D., 1974
Grad. School:   Harvard, LL.M., 1981

Richard J. Leon is a federal judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. He has served on the court since February 2002, when he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate after a 2001 nomination by George W. Bush.[1] He replaced Norma Holloway Johnson on the court.

Early life and education

Leon graduated from Holy Cross with his bachelor's degree in 1971 before earning his J.D. at Suffolk Law School in 1974. Leon also holds a Master of Laws degree from Harvard which he earned in 1981.[2]

Professional career

  • 2004-Present: Adjunct Professor, George Washington University Law School
  • 2000-2001: Commissioner, Judicial Review Commission on Foreign Asset Control
  • 1997: Special Counsel, U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Reform Task Force
  • 1997-Present: Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University Law Center
  • 1994: Special Counsel, Whitewater investigation, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs
  • 1992-1993: Chief Minority Counsel, October Surprise Task Force, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs
  • 1990-1993: Commissioner, White House Fellows Commission
  • 1989-2002: Private Practice, Washington, D.C.
  • 1988-1989: Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice
  • 1987-1988: Deputy Chief Minority Counsel, U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran
  • 1983-1987: Senior Trial Attorney, Criminal Section, Tax Division, U.S. Department of Justice
  • 1979-1983: Assistant Professor of Law, St. John's University School of Law
  • 1977-1978: Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, Civil Division, Southern District of New York
  • 1976-1977: Attorney, Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Department of Justice Honors Program
  • 1975-1976: Law Clerk, Hon. Thomas F. Kelleher, Rhode Island Supreme Court
  • 1974-1975: Law Clerk, Superior Court of Massachusetts[2]

Judicial career

District of Columbia

Leon was nominated to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia by President George W. Bush on September 10, 2001 to a seat vacated by Norma Holloway Johnson. Bates was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 14, 2002 and received commission on February 19, 2002.[2]

Notable cases

NSA metadata collection unconstitutional (2013)

     United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Klayman v. Obama, 13-0851 (RJL))

On December 16, 2013, Judge Richard Leon ruled that the NSA's collection of phone metadata was constitutional. In a firmly written opinion Leon wrote:
This case is yet the latest chapter in the Judiciary’s continuing challenge to balance the national security interests of the United States with the individual liberties of our citizens. The Government, in its understandable zeal to protect our homeland, has crafted a counterterrorism program with respect to telephone metadata that strikes the balance based in large part on a thirty-four year old Supreme Court precedent, the relevance of which has been eclipsed by technological advances and a cell phone-centric lifestyle heretofore inconceivable. In the months ahead, other Article III courts, no doubt, will wrestle to find the proper balance consistent with our constitutional system. But in the meantime, for all the above reasons, I will grant Larry Klayman’s and Charles Strange’s request for an injunction and enter an order that (1) bars the Government from collecting, as part of the NSA’s Bulk Telephony Metadata Program, any telephony metadata associated with their personal Verizon accounts and (2) requires the Government to destroy any such metadata in its possession that was collected through the bulk collection program.


—Judge Richard Leon[4]

The case was filed by Larry Klayman shortly after information on the NSA's domestic surveillance program was leaked by Edward Snowden. The case is the first successful ruling against the NSA since the Snowden leaks. The Klayman claimed that the broad collection of metadata from phones was a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The counter argument brought by the Obama Administration was that precedence was set in a 1979 case, Smith v. Maryland, that ruled the NSA was protected from such Fourth Amendment claims. Judge Leon stated:

Put simply, people in 2013 have an entirely different relationship with phones than they did 34 years ago... Records that once would have revealed a few scattered tiles of information about a person now reveal an entire mosaic — a vibrant and constantly updating picture of the person’s life.[4]


Attention was also drawn to the administration's inability to prove that any public interest is served by this program, citing the lack of "a single instance in which analysis of the N.S.A.'s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive."[5]

An appeal of the decision would be heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and was addressed by Judge Leon:

However, in light of the significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues, I will stay my order pending appeal. In doing so, I hereby give the Government fair notice that should my ruling be upheld, this order will go into effect forthwith. Accordingly, I fully expect that during the appellate process, which will consume at least the next six months, the Government will take whatever steps necessary to prepare itself to comply with this order when, and if, it is upheld. Suffice it to say, requesting further time to comply with this order months from now will not be well received and could result in collateral sanctions.[4][3]

Porteous' suit against the House Judiciary Committee (2010)

     United States District Court for the District of Columbia (G. Thomas Porteous, JR. v. Alan I. Baron, 09-2131 (RJL))

On August 2, 2010, Leon dismissed Thomas Porteous' case against the House Judiciary Committee that claimed that his Fifth Amendments rights were violated. Justice Leon found that Porteous' Fifth Amendment rights were not violated, stating that the Speech and Debate Clause, a clause that protects Congress from judicial intrusion, bars the lawsuit in that is bypasses the Senate's impeachment process.[6]

Stagliano obscenity case (2010)

     United States District Court for the District of Columbia (United States of America v. John Stagliano, 1:08-cr-00093-RJL)

Judge Leon was the presiding judge in a trial involving obscenity charges against John Stagliano, a well-known adult film producer. The charges were the interstate trafficking of obscene material. On August 4, 2010, Leon dismissed the charges against Stagliano on the grounds that the charges could not be linked to him.[7]

Michigan casino case dismissed (2009)

     United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Patchak v. Salazar, 08-1331)

On August 19, 2009, Judge Leon dismissed a lawsuit filed by Allegan County, Michigan against the US Department of the Interior. The county sued the government agency over prohibiting the Interior Department from taking 147 acres of land to build a new $200 million casino that would be run by the Gun Lake Tribe. The case was appealed before United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit[8] and later the Supreme Court of the United States[9] where Leon's decision was finally upheld.

Release of Abdulrahim Abdul Razak Al Ginco (2009)

     United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Abdulrahim Abdul Razak Al Ginco v. Barack H. Obama, 05-1310 (RJL))

On June 22, 2009, Leon ordered the release of Abdulrahim Abdul Razak Al Gincofrom from Guantanamo, who now uses the surname Janko. Janko was detained in Guantanamo in early 2002. The Bush administration and then the Obama administration have argued that Janko was an enemy combatant who should have been subject to indefinite detention. In the analysis, Leon said that the evidence of Janko being a part of al-Qaeda was undermined by the governments reports of Janko being tortured by al-Qaeda and imprisoned by the Taliban for 18 months.

Release of Guantanamo detainees (2008)

     United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Lakhdar Boumediene v. George W. Bush, 04-1166(RJL))

On November 20, 2008, Justice Leon ordered five of six detainees released due to insufficient evidence to justify their continued captivity, granting them their writ of habeas corpus.[10] The government claimed that all six of the petitioners were planning on traveling to Afghanistan to take up arms against he United States under al-Qaeda. Based on the evidence the government provided Leon determined that it was not substantial enough to keep the petitioners imprisoned.

See also

External links


Washington, D.C.Washington, D.C. judicial newsJudicial selection in Washington, D.C.United States District Court for the District of ColumbiaUnited States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia CircuitDistrict of Columbia Court of AppealsSuperior Court of the District of ColumbiaDCTemplate.jpg