Probably no Indian American in the field of law in recent years has acquired as high a profile as Neal Katyal, who took on the Bush administration and won a case that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
June 29, 2006, in the case of Hamdan versus Rumsfeld -- which challenged the policy of military trials at Guantanamo Bay -- the Supreme Court sided with Katyal's arguments on behalf of Hamdan -- said to be at one time a chauffeur for
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden -- by a 5-3 vote, finding that President Bush's military tribunals violated the constitutional separation of powers, domestic military law and international law.
Named Lawyer of the Year by Lawyers USA for 2006, Runner Up for Lawyer of the Year by the National Law Journal, one of the top 50 Litigators in the nation by American Lawyer Magazine. Awarded the 2004 Pro Bono Award by the National Law Journal.
|Photo: Joshua Roberts / |
Katyal -- pictured here with United States Naval Commander Charles Swift -- told India Abroad this ruling was definitely the highlight of his career. The New York Times' Linda Greenhouse noted that the case was 'a defining moment in the ever-shifting balance of power among branches of government that ranked with the court's order to President Richard M Nixon in 1974 to turn over the Watergate tapes, or with the court's rejection of President Harry S Truman's seizing the nation's steel mills.'
Katyal, an expert in national security law, the Constitution and the Geneva Convention, in this particular case forced a worldwide coalition of support for his challenge to the Guantanamo policy.
He said, apart from this, his other achievement was "being selected by President Clinton as a co-reporter of his challenge to lawyers to do more pro bono work, and being selected by Vice President Al Gore as his co-counsel in the 2000 election dispute at the US Supreme Court," in the disputed election that brought George W Bush to the Oval Office.
An alumnus of Dart-mouth College and the Yale Law School, Katyal clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer as well as Judge Guido Calbresi at the United States Court of Appeals before he joined the world of academia and legal activism. He has published extensively in virtually every major law review and journal and in 2004 was awarded the National Law Journal's Pro Bono Award for his work on the Guantanamo case.
After winning that case, he became an instant celebrity, appearing on several nightly news programs and talk shows.