A Life in the Law: Judge Richard J. Leon

March 30, 2009Duke Law News

Christopher H. Schroeder, Charles S. Murphy Professor of Law and Director of the Program in Public Law, interviews U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon about his career in the law and significant milestones along the way to his current position. Judge Leon was appointed to the United States District Court in February 2002. He was the first federal judge to test the Supreme Court's June decision in Boumediene v. Bush regarding Guantanamo detainees' rights. In November 2008 Judge Leon ordered the release of 5 of 6 detainees alleged to have plotted to bomb the U.S. Embassy at Sarajevo.

Other high profile cases Judge Leon has ruled on include PETA v. Gittens, McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, Brendsel v. Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, and ACORN v. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Prior to his appointment to the bench, he was in private practice in Washington, D.C., and served as counsel to Congress in the investigations of 3 sitting Presidents during the "Iran-Contra," "October Surprise," and "Whitewater" affairs. Leon has also been an attorney for the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the U.S. Department of Justice, served as Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, and was a senior trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice. In addition, he has taught at St. John's University School of Law as an assistant professor of law.