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John Adams Project - Attorney Bios

Lawyer Biographies 

Already, some of the most prominent and experienced criminal defense lawyers in the U.S. have been recruited to represent the high-value detainees described below. These lawyers all have experience defending cases involving charges of terrorism and issues of national security. Additionally, the attorneys who will represent detainees charged with capital offenses also have experience with death penalty cases.

Although the project organizers are still identifying lawyers to participate in this project, below are descriptions of some of the lawyers who have agreed to represent the high-value detainees, including those currently facing charges by military commission. All of these lawyers have received an "AV" Peer Review Rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating a lawyer can receive and indicates a reputation among his or her peers for having achieved professional excellence. In addition, all but one currently holds or has previously held a national security clearance.


Joshua L. Dratel

Joshua L. Dratel has defended criminal cases in state, federal and military courts since 1982. Mr. Dratel has extensive experience in both terrorism and death penalty cases and is considered to be an expert in issues related to the use of classified evidence in criminal proceedings. For example, Mr. Dratel defended Wadih El-Hage against charges related to the U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa in 1998 in the case of United States v. Usama bin Laden. That case involved extensive litigation of issues related both to the use of classified evidence and to the imposition of Special Administrative Measures that restricted Mr. El-Hage's ability to assist in his own defense. Mr. Dratel also defended Mohamed El-Mezain in the case of United States v. Holy Land Foundation, which involved allegations of material support for Hamas (a designated terrorist organization) and also required considerable litigation regarding national security issues. Mr. Dratel has also been a member of the capital defense panel for the federal court in the Southern District of New York, and has served as lead and learned counsel in a number of federal death penalty cases. He is also a member of the Capital Punishment Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and chairs its amicus curiae subcommittee. As noted above, Mr. Dratel also served as lead and civilian defense counsel for David Hicks, an Australian citizen charged by military commission and detained at Guantanamo Bay.

Mr. Dratel is a past president of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, is on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), and serves as co-chair of NACDL's amicus curiae committee. He has co-edited two books related to the treatment of detainees and other prisoners in the ongoing "war on terror," including The Enemy Combatant Papers: American Justice, the Courts, and the War on Terror, Cambridge University Press (forthcoming in 2008), and The Torture Papers: the Road to Abu-Ghraib, Cambridge University Press (2005). He has written numerous law review articles challenging the constitutionality of the Classified Information Procedures Act as it is applied to deny criminal defendants access to evidence, as well as Special Administrative Measures that limit the defendant's ability to assist in his or her own defense. In 2006, NACDL awarded Mr. Dratel the Robert C. Heeney Award, which is the organization's most prestigious award, given annually to the one criminal defense attorney who best exemplifies the goals and values of the association and the legal profession. He has received numerous other awards and commendations from NACDL and other legal organizations for his work on behalf of criminal defendants.

Thomas Anthony Durkin

Thomas Anthony Durkin has been practicing criminal law in Chicago for almost thirty-five years and has a wealth of experience defending clients in complex cases, including cases involving classified evidence and allegations related to terrorism. For example, Mr. Durkin represented Dr. Abdelhaleem Ashqar, who was charged with providing material support to the Specially Designated Terrorist Organization, Hamas. That case required extensive pre-trial litigation regarding application of the Classified Information Procedures Act. Mr. Durkin also served as lead trial counsel for Matthew Hale, the self proclaimed Pontifex Maximus of the World Church of the Creator, an avowed white supremacist organization, on widely publicized charges that Hale solicited the murder of U.S. District Court Judge Joan H. Lefkow. The FBI designated Mr. Hale's case as a "domestic terrorism" case, resulting in the Attorney General's decision to impose Special Administrative Measures that restricted Mr. Hale's ability to assist in his own defense. Mr. Durkin successfully challenged several of these restrictions on Sixth Amendment grounds. In the civil arena, Mr. Durkin challenged the constitutionality of the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act on behalf of the Global Relief Foundation, Inc., an Islamic charity whose assets were blocked after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Mr. Durkin is also lead counsel for two men currently imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Walid Mohammad Haj Mohammad Ali (ISN 081) and Abdul Raham Houari (ISN 070). He presently serves on the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer (NACDL)'s Select Committee on Military Tribunals and Terrorism.

Mr. Durkin, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, also has considerable experience with the death penalty. Not only has he represented defendants in capital cases, he currently serves as Chairman of the Expert Panel for Capital Appointments for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. Mr. Durkin also serves as a liaison to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit's Judicial Council Committee to Study the Appointment of Counsel for Indigent Habeas Corpus Petitioners under a Sentence of Death. Mr. Durkin is currently listed in the Illinois "Super Lawyers" Magazine indicating he is rated among the top 5% of Illinois lawyers.

Nina Ginsberg

Nina Ginsberg has been practicing criminal law since 1978. Her practice concentrates on complex criminal trial and appellate litigation, with a focus on financial and government fraud, espionage, Patriot Act and other international litigation, money laundering and professional ethics. For example, she represented a former US Air Force intelligence analyst on charges that he offered highly classified information to China, Libya and Iraq in exchange for millions of dollars in a case in which the government sought the death penalty---the first attempt to obtain the death penalty in an espionage case since the prosecution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg in 1951. She also represented an FBI agent charged with selling national secrets to Russia, a case which required extensive litigation regarding the use of classified evidence, and represented an Australian intelligence analyst who tried to sell national secrets on the international market, which required her to obtain evidence from foreign countries. She is considered an expert on the application of Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) in criminal cases, and has been appointed by the court to serve as CIPA counsel in a terrorism case where trial counsel lacked a security clearance. Ms. Ginsberg also has experience litigating death penalty cases. For example, she represented a MS-13 member in a federal death penalty case, which required her to obtain mitigation evidence from foreign countries.

Ms. Ginsberg received the Presidential Commendation Award from NACDL in 1989, 1990, 1995, 2001 and 2007 and was named one of the 75 Top Lawyers in Washington by Washingtonian Magazine (April 2002). She has served on NACDL's Board of Directors, and its National Security and International Affairs Committees. Ms. Ginsberg is also one of the NACDL delegates to the United Nations. Ms. Ginsberg is currently a member of the Editorial Board of the Criminal Law Advocacy Reporter, is on the Board of Governors of the Virginia State Bar Criminal Law Section, and served two terms as a Virginia State Bar Council member. She is a frequent lecturer and commentator to state and local bar associations and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and on local and national news programs.

Nancy Hollander

Nancy Hollander has practiced criminal law for thirty years and has considerable experience defending clients charged with offenses related to terrorism and national security. For example, Ms. Hollander was one of the lawyers representing Wen Ho Lee, a scientist accused of stealing secrets about the United States nuclear arsenal for China. She handled many of the issues relating to the suppression of evidence against him and issues relating to the Special Administrative Measures to which he was subjected. She is currently lead defense counsel in United States v. Holy Land Foundation, a multi-defendant case involving allegations of material support to the Specially Designated Terrorist Organization, Hamas. That case has involved significant litigation over the use of classified evidence and foreign intelligence. Ms. Hollander also served as a consultant to the defense in the first case in Ireland charging a defendant with directing terrorism and has assisted counsel in other international cases. She has coordinated and taught training courses for criminal defense lawyers wishing to appear before the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, was the coordinator of a jury trial training project in Russia, has served as a consultant to the United Nations Development Programme in Vietnam and was a founding member of the Council of the International Criminal Bar for lawyers who will appear before the ICC. Ms. Hollander is lead counsel for Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian man currently imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.

Ms. Hollander is Past-President of NACDL, and is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and the American Board of Criminal Lawyers. In 2001, she was named as one of America's top fifty women litigators by the National Law Journal. She is listed in The Best Lawyers in America, the National Directory of Criminal Lawyers, New Mexico Super Lawyers and the International Who's Who of Business Crime Lawyers. In 1987, NACDL awarded Ms. Hollander the Robert C. Heeney Award, which is the organization's most prestigious award, given annually to the one criminal defense attorney who best exemplifies the goals and values of the association and the legal profession. Ms. Hollander is also one of the NACDL delegates to the United Nations. She has lectured in the United States and Europe on national security issues. She is co-author of Everytrial Criminal Defense Resource Book, Wharton's Criminal Evidence, 15th Edition, and Wharton's Criminal Procedure, 14th Edition.

Denise LeBoeuf

Denise LeBoeuf is a capital defender with a private practice in New Orleans, Louisiana; she was the founding Director of the Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana and is currently of counsel to that defender organization. She represents persons facing death at trial and in post-conviction in state and federal courts, teaches and consults with capital defense teams nationally. She is particularly interested in the litigation of mental health cases and in the ways in which race and poverty increase the traumatic burden carried by many clients. She was a member of the 2003 Committee that formulated the ABA Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases, and Chair of the post-Katrina Orleans Parish Indigent Defender Board 2006-2007. She holds a B.A. from Hunter College and a J.D. from Tulane University.

She is past President and past General Counsel of the Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union, and was a Member of the Board of the ACLU for a number of years. She was the Chair of the Orleans Parish Public Defenders Board post-Katrina, a member of the Executive Board of the Moratorium Campaign, a member of the Board of the People’s Institute for Survival, an Undoing Racism Organization, and the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. In 2006 she was of counsel to the ACLU Capital Punishment Project in Durham, North Carolina.

Amanda Lee

Amanda Lee has been practicing criminal law since 1996. Recently, Ms. Lee represented Daniel McGowan, an environmental activist accused of domestic terrorism in connection with arson in the Western United States. Ms. Lee moved for production of NSA surveillance of the defendants in the case, which led to successful hearings and plea negotiations. Ms. Lee has also represented clients in international terrorism investigations. For example, shortly after September 11, dozens of Middle Eastern truck drivers were rounded up around the United States, on the suspicion that they might drive trucks loaded with hazardous materials into American buildings. Ms. Lee and her partner Jeff Robinson represented a client arrested and taken into custody in the Seattle area. Since 2001, Ms. Lee has been a frequent speaker on the Patriot Act, the National Security Administration's domestic surveillance program, national security letters, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and domestic terrorism. Ms. Lee also has significant experience outside her law practice related to matters of national security. Ms. Lee studied industrial engineering and technical writing in college and worked as a systems analyst for Science Applications International, a well-known defense contractor, before attending law school. Her work required security clearances, and she interacted closely with a number of military units. Ms. Lee has a strong technical background, and is comfortable deciphering complex data and managing large sets of documents.

Early in her legal career, Ms. Lee clerked for United States District Judge John C. Coughenour for four years, and also for Ninth Circuit Judge Robert Beezer for one year. In both of her clerkships, Ms. Lee worked on death penalty matters. Judge Beezer designed Ms. Lee as the sole death penalty clerk in his chambers. In that role, Ms. Lee reviewed and analyzed every death penalty case that came before Judge Beezer during her term. During her tenure as Judge Coughenour's law clerk, Ms. Lee prepared bench memos on numerous death penalty cases and drafted orders for the judge's signature. As a result of her experience in the district and circuit chambers, she was appointed by Judge Beezer to serve on the circuit's task force to update procedures for processing habeas petitions in the court. Ms. Lee is the immediate past president of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and is consistently listed as one of Washington Law & Politics "Super Lawyers," indicating she is rated among the top 5% of Washington's lawyers. She is also listed in Best Lawyers in America.

Edward B. MacMahon, Jr.

Edward MacMahon has been practicing criminal law since 1986, and has represented numerous clients charged with offenses related to national security as well as clients facing the death penalty. For example, in the 1980s, Mr. MacMahon represented one of the Army officers tried by Court Martial in the Iran-Contra case. More recently, he was lead counsel in the case of United States v. al-Timimi, who was charged with soliciting others to levy war against the United States and inducing others to use firearms in violation of federal law. Although that case is currently on appeal, it was recently sent back to the district court for further proceedings regarding claims that Dr. al-Timimi was subject to the warrantless wiretapping.

Mr. MacMahon also represented Zacarias Moussaoui, who was charged with crimes related to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Although the government sought the death penalty in that case, a jury ultimately elected to spare his life. That case remains, until any cases are tried in Guantanamo, the only trial involving the September 11th attacks. According to the government, the Moussaoui case involved the largest quantity of classified evidence ever produced in a criminal case requiring dozens of hearings to address the use and admissibility of that evidence.

Scott McKay

Scott McKay has been practicing law since 1991, and has actively practiced criminal law since 1996. During the course of his career, he has represented foreign nationals and consulted with lawyers around the country on cases involving issues of national security. Mr. McKay received the Clarence Darrow Award from the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho for his defense of Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, a Saudi national acquitted of terrorism charges following a lengthy trial in federal court in 2004. Mr. McKay has co-authored an article discussing the USA Patriot Act and has addressed a variety of audiences concerning his experiences in the Al-Hussayen criminal trial. He also has worked on capital litigation at the trial and post trial levels. Mr. McKay works on complex civil litigation and, since 2003, he has been involved with the pending federal litigation consolidated in New York arising out of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Mr. McKay has been selected by his peers each year since 2003 for listing in "The Best Lawyers in America." He is listed in Mountain States Super Lawyers magazine (2007 and 2008) which features the top 5% of lawyers in Nevada, Utah, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Additional information regarding Mr. McKay's background can be found at www.nbmlaw.com/attorneys/scott_mckay.html.

David Nevin

David Nevin has defended criminal cases throughout the United States for nearly thirty years. He has obtained acquittals in a number of high-profile prosecutions which implicated issues of civil rights and government overreaching, including the 1993 Ruby Ridge case, and the 2004 terrorism prosecution of a Saudi Arabian graduate student, Sami Omar Al-Hussayen. Mr. Nevin has been actively involved in the defense of capital cases since 1981. This representation has included the defense of two cases at the trial level, neither of which resulted in death sentences (one acquittal, one second degree murder verdict). Mr. Nevin has also represented at least six death-sentenced defendants in various stages of post-conviction litigation, including direct appeal, certiorari petitions, and federal habeas corpus, in Idaho and federal trial and appellate courts. He has been qualified as an expert witness on the constitutional standards for lawyers in capital cases on five occasions in state and federal courts. He has informally consulted on numerous capital cases.

Mr. Nevin is a founder and past President of the Idaho Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the namesake of its Nevin Professionalism Award, which the organization awards annually to a criminal defense lawyer who has advanced the ideals of the profession. Mr. Nevin has twice received the organization's President's Award for outstanding service to criminal justice. He is also co-chair of the Litigation Technology Committee of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and is a frequent lecturer and author on issues involving criminal law and civil rights. Mr. Nevin, along with co-counsel Scott McKay and Joshua Dratel, received the Clarence Darrow Award from the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho for his defense of Sami Al-Hussayen. Mr. Nevin is also a Fellow, and the current Idaho State Chair, of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Mr. Nevin is a Top 75 Mountain States Superlawyer, was named one of the top 500 lawyers in the country by Lawdragon Magazine, and is listed in Best Lawyers in America for criminal defense. Additional information about Mr. Nevin may be found at www.nbmlaw.com/attorneys/david_Nevin.html.

Jeff Robinson

Jeff Robinson has been practicing criminal law for over twenty-five years. He has tried almost 200 criminal cases in both state and federal courts, and he has significant experience defending against complex allegations involving conspiracy, DNA evidence and crime scene analysis. He has been trial counsel in a death penalty case in Washington. He has won numerous acquittals in homicide cases, and has been involved in some of the most serious criminal cases in Washington State. He was trial counsel in a triple aggravated murder case lasting almost 7 months. He represented the international President of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club charged as the lead defendant in a broad RICO conspiracy alleging arson, attempted murder for hire and witness tampering. Mr. Robinson also represented a young man facing mandatory life in prison for alleged acts of domestic terrorism associated with the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front. Extensive motions regarding the surveillance techniques used by the NSA and other Government agencies paved the way for a negotiated sentence of 7 years instead of life in prison.

Mr. Robinson is a past president of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and in 2004 received the William O. Douglas Award, which is the highest honor given by that organization and is awarded in recognition of "Extraordinary Courage and Dedication to the Practice of Criminal Law." Mr. Robinson has been listed in Best Lawyers in America since 1993, and is an Elected Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, whose membership is limited to one percent of the lawyers in any state in the country. He was recognized by Black Enterprise Magazine as one of the top 100 Black lawyers in America and has consistently been rated by Washington Law and Politics Magazine as one of the top 5% of all lawyers in Washington State and one of the top 10 criminal defense lawyers in Washington State. Mr. Robinson was also appointed by the Mayor of Seattle (and approved by the City Council) to serve as the civilian auditor of the Seattle Police Department Intelligence Files. Additional information about Mr. Robinson may be found at www.sgb-law.com/attorneys.php?name=Jeffery+Robinson.

Gary D. Sowards

Gary Sowards has litigated capital cases at the trial, appellate and post-conviction level in state and federal courts for over twenty-five years. In 1986, he was among the capital litigators recruited to staff the California Appellate Project soon after its founding by the California State Bar Association to provide assistance to private attorneys handling death penalty appeals before the California Supreme Court. He later formed a private law firm, Sternberg, Sowards & Laurence, devoted exclusively to defending death penalty clients in trial and post-conviction (habeas corpus) proceedings. In 1998, he was recruited to be a founding deputy director of the California State Habeas Corpus Resource Center (HCRC) in San Francisco, providing direct representation to death-sentenced prisoners in state and federal habeas corpus proceedings. Since November 2006, he has continued to serve as a consultant to HCRC as well as private counsel in capital cases.

He is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law (J.D., 1975) and the University of San Francisco (B.A., 1972).

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