Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, whose fearless defense of his client led to the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld denying the president’s power to try detainees held at Guantanamo Bay by military tribunals, was honored by Seattle University School of Law and gave the keynote address at a forum on presidential powers.
Swift, a 1994 graduate of Seattle University School of Law, received the Distinguished Alumnus Award at a dinner November 2. He was the keynote speaker at a forum, “Is The President Always Right? An Examination of Presidential Authority,” on November 3.
Swift took a huge risk when he was appointed to represent alleged enemy combatants. Rather than work out a plea deal, he fought for the rights of his client and other detainees. Hamdan v. Rumsfeld is one of the most important Supreme Court decisions in decades concerning the Constitutional powers of the president and of Congress in foreign policy and war-making. The June 2006 decision reaffirmed that all individuals, regardless of their nationality or their suspected crimes, are entitled to certain fundamental human rights. Swift has been profiled in the New York Times and other major publications and was named runner up for 2005 Lawyer of the Year by the National Law Journal.
“Whether you agree politically with the decision or not, I think we can all agree that the international ramifications of the case, and the courage it took for Lt. Cmdr. Swift to bring it, deserve our kudos,” Dean Kellye Testy said. “His work on this landmark case is an example of the outstanding lawyering Seattle University School of Law teaches.”
The forum the following day was also sponsored by the School of Law. It examined the assertion that “The president is always right,” which was made by Steven Bradbury, acting assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice, in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 14, 2006.
Distinguished jurists, attorneys and scholars discussed the current administration’s assertion of presidential authority in the “war on terror,” including the NSA domestic surveillance program and the holding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, as well as President Bush’s controversial use of signing statements. Other speakers included:
- Bruce Fein, Bruce Fein & Associates, former associate deputy attorney general in the Department of Justice under President Reagan and member of the ABA Task Force on Domestic Surveillance in the Fight Against Terrorism and the ABA Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements and the Separation of Powers Doctrine.
- Jules Lobel, Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Vice President, U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights.
- Deborah N. Pearlstein, Director, U.S. Law and Security Program, Human Rights First.
- Judge Robert Lasnik, U.S. Federal District Court, Western Washington.