Terrorism Cases in Civilian Courts: Balancing the Powers of Government

Leonie M. Brinkema, Judge, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia

Mon, 04/28/2008
4:30 PM, Dodds Auditorium, Woodrow Wilson School
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The John Marshall Harlan '20 Lecture in Constitutional Adjudication honors the 1920 Princeton graduate who served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1955 until 1971. Harlan was the eighth Princetonian to serve on the court. In 2003, Associate Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was the inaugural Harlan Lecturer. Justice Dieter Grimm, former Justice of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany and current Rector, Wissenschaftskollege, Berlin, gave the second Harlan Lecture in 2005.

This year's Harlan Lecturer, Federal District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, became one of the country's leading experts on terrorism trials the hard way: she presided over the trial of former "twentieth hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui. This has been the highest profile terrorism trial held to date in the United States, and Zacarias Moussaoui is the only person tried and convicted in a US court for participation in the 9/11 plot. During the trial, Judge Brinkema revealed an extraordinary judicial temperament and showed how it was possible to handle even the most challenging case - the case of an accused al Qaeda member determined to kill Americans -- with a strong commitment to the rule of law.

Judge Brinkema notes that our legal institutions are fully capable of responding effectively to terrorism cases using traditional constitutional values and established methods of balancing competing interests, such as those between national security and individual rights. The challenge raised by international terrorism is how we respond to it.

Judge Leonie Brinkema was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, and was the first woman to serve on the federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia. She is a New Jersey native, and attended Rutgers University before receiving her law degree from Cornell Law School. Judge Brinkema worked as a trial attorney in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, both in the Public Integrity Section and in the Office of International Affairs. She also served as an assistant US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia before being named a US Magistrate. As a District Judge, Judge Brinkema has earned respect from her colleagues, from the lawyers who appear before her, from her devoted law clerks, and from the jurors whose well-being she is known for guarding.

For more on Judge Brinkema, see this article about her, which appeared last year in the Washington Post. The biographical information on this LAPA page was adapted from her alumna profile at Cornell

Please note that there will be no video recording or photography permitted at this event.