Schnader's Appellate Excellence Serves The Public Interest

Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 01:00

Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP has a unique distinction among law firms in the United States in counting among its lawyers two former federal appellate judges: The Honorable Arlin M. Adams and myself. I would like to think that this unusual combination adds a richness and depth to an already preeminent appellate practice group.

In recognition of that strength, Schnader is often appointed on a pro bono basis by appellate courts and engaged to represent governmental entities in cases involving significant legal issues, in addition to its fee work for clients on complex post-trial matters and on appeals. Schnader's historic dedication to matters of public interest combined with its appellate expertise has led to some notable accomplishments at the highest levels of the judiciary. I would like to discuss two recent high-profile cases in which Schnader provided pro bono appellate legal services, including the appellate briefing and conducting of moot courts in which our appellate group specializes.

On February 24, 2004, the United States Supreme Court reversed the death sentence in the high-profile capital case from Texas, Banks v. Dretke. The Court had previously granted a stay of execution sparing Banks' life 10 minutes prior to the scheduled execution and later reversed the case due to established prosecutorial misconduct. Along with two other former federal judges (including former FBI Director, Judge William S. Sessions) and a former U.S. Attorney, I filed the amicus brief in that case arguing against the imposition of capital punishment. The case marked the first time that former federal judges banded together to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a death sentence.

After working on Banks, I joined prominent Washington, DC attorneys and law professors at the Supreme Court Institute at the Georgetown University Law Center, which prepares counsel for oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in a variety of important cases.

One such matter is the high-profile case, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, in which I served as chief justice for the Supreme Court Institute moot court for counsel for petitioner Yaser Esam Hamdi in preparation for his U.S. Supreme Court argument on April 28. Hamdi is an American citizen who has been detained at Navy prisons in Virginia and South Carolina by the federal government as an "enemy combatant" since his arrest in Afghanistan more than two years ago. He has not been charged with a crime and, as of the time of the case, had not been permitted to have communications with anyone, including counsel.

The moot court assisted counsel in anticipating critical questions and in framing helpful responses during argument relating to whether the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals erred in dismissing Hamdi's consolidated habeas petitions (one filed by the Federal Public Defender, the other by Hamdi's father as a "next friend"). At issue was whether the United States Constitution permits the government to indefinitely detain an American citizen under these circumstances on the grounds that he was seized abroad in a theater of the war on terrorism and declared by the Secretary of Defense to be an "enemy combatant," and whether the separation of powers precludes a federal court from inquiring into the executive branch's justification for seizing and detaining a U.S. citizen as an enemy combatant. The Supreme Court explored the issues during the oral argument and will render its decision soon.

Having served as a federal judge at both the District Court and Circuit Court levels, it is an honor to be associated with a law firm that recognizes the importance of matters such as these to our country and to our profession. Serving the public interest is a commitment on which Schnader has placed a great value since the firm was founded nearly 70 years ago.

Resident in Schnader's Washington, D.C. office, The Hon. Timothy K. Lewis serves as co-chair of Schnader's Appellate Practice Group with Nancy Winkelman. He handles federal and state appeals, complex arbitration and mediation matters, commercial and criminal litigation, federal and state criminal matters, and corporate investigations. Before entering private practice, he served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Schnader's Appellate Practice Group includes Firm Chairman Ralph G. Wellington; The Hon. Arlin M. Adams; Judge Lewis; Nancy Winkelman; Carl A. Solano, chair of the First Amendment, Defamation and Communications Practice Group; and Partners Paul H. Titus and Deena Jo Schneider; all of whom have extensive experience in complex business matters involving both procedural and substantive issues.