ACLU Files Suit on Behalf of Fired CRS Official

01.11.10 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Friday on behalf of Col. Morris D. Davis, a former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo, alleging that he was unlawfully fired from the Congressional Research Service because he made statements as a private individual that were critical of Obama Administration policy on military commissions.  (“CRS Fires A Division Chief,” Secrecy News, December 4, 2009.)

“Col. Davis has a constitutional right to speak about issues of which he has expert knowledge, and the public has a right to hear from him,” said ACLU attorney Aden Fine.

The lawsuit names as defendants James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, as well as CRS Director Daniel P. Mulhollan, who is sued in his personal capacity.

At the root of the matter, ACLU argues, are ambiguous Library regulations and a problematic 2004 CRS policy (pdf) on “outside activities” by CRS employees.

“Neither the Library’s regulations nor CRS’s policy establishes a standard for determining which outside speaking and writing is permissible and which is not. The regulations and policy afford the Library and CRS unfettered discretion to determine which speech to punish,” according to the ACLU lawsuit (pdf).

“We maintain that the removal of Mr. Davis is justified,” wrote Library of Congress General Counsel Elizabeth Pugh on December 14, 2009 (pdf).

The case was assigned to Judge Reggie Walton of the DC District Court. A job vacancy notice for Mr. Davis’s position was posted on USAJobs on January 8, 2010.