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Teleseminar on Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project





An exciting ACR exclusive teleseminar on the recent Supreme Court decision, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, took place on July 12, 2010.
The teleseminar featured, David Cole, the attorney who argued the Humanitarian Law Project’s case. Please click on the icon above and press play to listen to the recording.


Georgetown Law Professor David Cole, who represented Humanitarian Law Project and argued the case before the Supreme Court will talk about the case and its potential impact on conflict resolution work around the world.

The June 21st, split 6-3 Supreme Court decision, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, preserved key provisions of the 2001 Patriot Act, and states that the government has the authority to criminalize "material support" to terrorist organizations. "Material support" is defined broadly, to include any "service," "training," "expert advice or assistance" or "personnel."

Humanitarian Law Project, a non-profit organization challenged the material support provisions because they wanted to provide assistance and education on human rights advocacy and peacemaking to the Kurdistan Workers' Party in Turkey, a designated foreign terrorist organization. Multiple lower court rulings had found the statute unconstitutionally vague.

Under the law, individuals face up to 15 years in prison for providing "material support" to foreign terrorist organizations, even if their work is intended to promote peaceful, lawful objectives.

President Jimmy Carter, founder of the Carter Center, commented on the ruling: "We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that inhibits the work of human rights and conflict resolution groups. The 'material support law' – which is aimed at putting an end to terrorism – actually threatens our work and the work of many other peacemaking organizations that must interact directly with groups that have engaged in violence. The vague language of the law leaves us wondering if we will be prosecuted for our work to promote peace and freedom."

David Cole is a professor of law at Georgetown University. After graduating from Yale Law School, Professor Cole served as a law clerk to Judge Arlin M. Adams of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Professor Cole then became a staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights where he litigated a number of major First Amendment cases, including Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 928 (1990), which established that the First Amendment protects flag burning, and National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley, which challenged the constitutionality of content restrictions on federal art funding. He continues to litigate First Amendment and other constitutional issues as a volunteer staff attorney at the Center. He has published in a variety of areas, including civil rights, criminal justice, constitutional law and law and literature. He is the legal affairs correspondent for The Nation, a commentator on National Public Radio: All Things Considered, and the author of three books: Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism (New Press, 2d ed. 2005); Terrorism and the Constitution: Sacrificing Civil Liberties for National Security (New Press, 3d ed. 2005) (with James X. Dempsey); and No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System (New Press, 1999). Professor Cole has received numerous awards for his civil rights and civil liberties work, including from the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of the Freedom of Expression, the American Bar Association’s Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section, the National Lawyers Guild, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Political Asylum and Immigrants’ Rights Project, the American Muslim Council, and Trial Lawyers for Public Justice.

If you would like to read more about the decision, here are some useful links:

The SCOTUS Majority opinion and dissent:

Amicus brief filed on behalf of peace groups:

All of the briefs in the case:

Supreme Court Blog

Editorials and articles:

Washington Post

New York Times

Wall Street Journal article

LA Times,0,5090110.story

Related websites:

Humanitarian Law Project

Charity and Security Network