Col. Morris Davis Successfully Settles First Amendment Lawsuit for Speaking Out About Gitmo Military Commissions

Government Will Pay $100,000 to Davis, Former Chief Prosecutor at Guantánamo

May 31, 2016 1:00 pm

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WASHINGTON — The former chief prosecutor for the Guantánamo military commissions today announced the settlement of his lawsuit against the Library of Congress, which had fired him for writing newspaper opinion pieces criticizing the Obama administration’s decision to resume use of the military commissions system.

Col. Morris Davis was terminated from his position as an assistant director of the Congressional Research Service in 2009 after his op-ed and letter to the editor were published by The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

Under the settlement, he will receive $100,000 and a correction of his employment record to show that he was not terminated for cause.

“I spent 25 years in the military defending the Constitution, only to be told by the library that it didn’t apply to my personal speech” said Davis. “I had always assumed the federal government respected the First Amendment, but instead I had to rely on the ACLU to ensure the free speech rights I defended were not rendered meaningless. Injustice at Guantánamo Bay is every bit as relevant today as it was more than six years ago when I spoke out about it. Guantánamo remains too important a conversation about who we are as Americans to let the federal government try and silence the debate.”

Lee Rowland, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said, “Individuals do not surrender their First Amendment rights to discuss matters of public interest when they become public employees. That’s doubly so for someone like Col. Davis, whose personal experience is critical for informing any public conversation about Guantánamo’s military commissions. Today’s settlement should send a message to all government employers that the Constitution prevents them from firing people who participate in public debate about government policy.”

Col. Davis was represented by Rowland, Esha Bhandari, and Ben Wizner of the ACLU; Arthur Spitzer of the ACLU of the National Capital Area; and John Moustakas and Matthew Riffee of the law firm Goodwin Procter LLP, who donated their time pro bono on the case.

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