Jonathan Turley

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Jonathan Turley
Jonathan Turley.jpg
Born (1961-05-06) May 6, 1961 (age 61)
Chicago, Illinois
Academic background
Alma mater University of Chicago Northwestern University
Academic work
Main interests Constitutional law Torts Criminal Law Legal Theory
Notable ideas litigation to deal with School bullying

Jonathan Turley (born May 6, 1961) is an American lawyer, legal scholar, writer, commentator, and legal analyst in broadcast and print journalism. He is currently a professor of law at The George Washington University Law School.

Education and personal life

Turley was born in Chicago, Illinois. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago in 1983 and his Juris Doctor degree from Northwestern University School of Law in 1987.[1]

He served as a House leadership page in 1977 and 1978 under the sponsorship of Illinois Democrat Sidney Yates.[2] In 2008 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Law from John Marshall Law School in recognition of his career as an advocate of civil liberties and constitutional rights.[3]

Turley lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Leslie, and four children.


Turley holds the Shapiro Chair for Public Interest Law at The George Washington University Law School where he teaches torts, criminal procedure, and constitutional law. He is the youngest person to receive an academic chair in the school's history. He runs the Project for Older Prisoners (POPS),[4][5] the Environmental Law Clinic, and the Environmental Legislation Project.[1]

Prior to joining the George Washington University, he was on the faculty of Tulane University Law School.[1]

His articles on legal and policy issues appear regularly in national publications; as of 2012, Turley has had articles published in newspapers such as the New York Times,[6] the Washington Post,[7] USA Today,[8] the Los Angeles Times,[4] and the Wall Street Journal.[9] He frequently appears in the national media as a commentator on a multitude of subjects[10][11] ranging from the 2000 Presidential Election Controversy to the Terri Schiavo case in 2005.[12] He is often a guest on Sunday talk shows,[10] with over two-dozen appearances on Meet the Press, ABC This Week, Face the Nation, and Fox News Sunday. He served as a contributor on Countdown with Keith Olbermann from 2003 until 2011, and later on Current TV[13] in 2011 and early 2012; Turley also appears occasionally on Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now!.[14]

Since the 1990s, he has been the legal analyst for NBC News and CBS News covering stories that ranged from the Clinton impeachment to the presidential elections.[1] He is on the board of contributors of USA Today.[15]


Turley is widely regarded as a champion of the rule of law, and his stated positions in many cases and his self-proclaimed "socially liberal agenda",[8] have led liberal and progressive thinkers to also consider him a champion for their causes, especially on issues such as separation of church and state, environmental law,[10][16] civil rights,[7][17] and the illegality of torture.[18][19][20] Politico has referred to Turley as a "liberal law professor and longtime civil libertarian".[21] Turley has nevertheless exhibited his disagreement with rigid ideological stances in contradiction to the established law with other stated and published opinions.[10][21]

In numerous appearances on Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Rachel Maddow Show, he has called for criminal prosecution of Bush administration officials for war crimes, including torture.[22]

In USA Today in October 2004, he famously argued for the legalization of polygamy,[23] provoking responses from writers such as Stanley Kurtz.[24][25]

Commenting on the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which, he contends, does away with habeas corpus, Turley says, "It’s something that no one thought—certainly I didn’t think—was possible in the United States. And I am not too sure how we got to this point. But people clearly don’t realize what a fundamental change it is about who we are as a country. What happened today changed us."[20]

He is a critic of special treatment for the church in law, asking why there are laws that "expressly exempt faith-based actions that result in harm".[26]

Turley disagrees with the theory that dealing with bullies is just a part of growing up, claiming that they are "no more a natural part of learning than is parental abuse a natural part of growing up" and believes that "litigation could succeed in forcing schools to take bullying more seriously".[27]

He has written extensively about the injustice of the death penalty noting that, "Human error remains a principal cause of botched executions" and opining that "eventually society will be forced to deal directly with a fundamental moral question: Has death itself become the intolerable element of the death penalty?"[28]

He worries that the Supreme Court is injecting itself into partisan politics.[29] He has frequently expressed the view that recent nominees to the court hold extreme views.[30][31]

However, Turley has a strong libertarian streak and sometimes infuriates the left with a contrarian position.[10] For instance, he has said, “It is hard to read the Second Amendment and not honestly conclude that the Framers intended gun ownership to be an individual right.”[8] Moreover, Turley testified in favor of the Clinton impeachment.[32]

In another commentary that outraged progressives, Turley defended Judge Henry E. Hudson's ruling declaring the individual mandate unconstitutional for violating the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, saying: "It’s very thoughtful — not a screed. I don’t see any evidence this is motivated by Judge Hudson’s personal beliefs...Anybody who’s dismissing this opinion as a political screed has obviously not read the opinion".[21]

Turley described Eric Holder in an Op-ed as President Barack Obama's sin-eater. "For Obama, there has been no better sin eater than Holder. When the president promised CIA employees early in his first term that they would not be investigated for torture, it was the attorney general who shielded officials from prosecution. When the Obama administration decided it would expand secret and warrantless surveillance, it was Holder who justified it. When the president wanted the authority to kill any American he deemed a threat without charge or trial, it was Holder who went public to announce the “kill list” policy. Last week, the Justice Department confirmed that it was Holder who personally approved the equally abusive search of Fox News correspondent James Rosen’s e-mail and phone records in another story involving leaked classified information. In the 2010 application for a secret warrant, the Obama administration named Rosen as “an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator” to the leaking of classified materials. The Justice Department even investigated Rosen’s parents’ telephone number, and Holder was there to justify every attack on the news media."[33]

In a December 2013 congressional hearing, responding to a question from Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) about the danger posed by President Obama's apparent unilateral modification of laws passed by Congress, Turley said, "The danger is quite severe. The problem with what the president is doing is that he's not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system. He's becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid. That is the concentration of power in every single branch. This Newtonian orbit that the three branches exist in is a delicate one but it is designed to prevent this type of concentration. There is [sic] two trends going on which should be of equal concern to all members of Congress. One is that we have had the radical expansion of presidential powers under both President Bush and President Obama. We have what many once called an imperial presidency model of largely unchecked authority. And with that trend we also have the continued rise of this fourth branch. We have agencies that are quite large that issue regulations. The Supreme Court said recently that agencies could actually define their own or interpret their own jurisdiction."[34]

As of Friday, November 21, 2014, Turley has agreed to represent House Speaker John Boehner and the Republican Party in a suit filled against the Obama Administration alleging unconstitutional implementation of the Affordable Care Act, specifically the individual mandate.[35]

Testimony before Congress

The conceptual thread running through many of the issues taken on by Turley is that they involve claims of Executive Privilege. For example, he said, "the president’s claim of executive authority based on Article II would put our system on a slippery slope."[36] He has argued against national security exceptions to fundamental constitutional rights.[30][37]

He is a frequent witness before the House and Senate on constitutional and statutory issues.[38][39] as well as tort reform legislation.[1]

Turley has testified in Congress against President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program and was lead counsel in a case challenging it. In regard to warrantless wiretaps he noted that, "Judge Anna Diggs Taylor chastised the government for a flagrant abuse of the Constitution and, in a direct message to the president, observed that there are no hereditary kings in America."[40]

When Congressional Democrats asked the justice department to investigate the CIA's destruction of terrorist interrogation tapes Turley said, "these are very serious allegations, that raise as many as six identifiable crimes ranging from contempt of Congress, to contempt of Justice, to perjury, to false statements."[41]

In October 2006, in an interview by Keith Olbermann of MSNBC, he expressed strong disapproval of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.[20]

When the U. S. Senate was about to vote on Michael Mukasey for U.S. attorney general, Turley said, "The attorney general nominee's evasive remarks on 'water-boarding' should disqualify him from the job."[19] On the treatment of terrorism suspect José Padilla Turley says, "The treatment of Padilla ranks as one of the most serious abuses after 9/11...This is a case that would have shocked the Framers. This is precisely what many of the drafters of the Constitution had in mind when they tried to create a system of checks and balances." Turley considers the case of great import on the grounds that "Padilla's treatment by the military could happen to others."[17]

Turley, in his capacity as a constitutional scholar,[42] testified in favor of the Clinton impeachment.[32][43] He was extensively quoted by congressman James Rogan during the Impeachment of Bill Clinton[44]


In 2005, Turley was given the Columnist of the Year award for Single-Issue Advocacy for his columns on civil liberties by the Aspen Institute[1] and The Week Magazine.[45]

He was ranked among the nation's top 500 lawyers in 2008.[46] Turley was found to be the second most cited law professor in the country as well as being ranked as one of the top ten military lawyers.[1]

In 2008 his blog was ranked as the top law professor blog and legal theory blog by the American Bar Association Journal's survey of the top 100 blogs.[47][48]

Turley was ranked as 38th in the top 100 most cited “public intellectuals” in a recent study by Judge Richard Posner.[49]

Prominent cases

In addition to maintaining a widely read blog,[50] Turley has served as counsel in some of the most notable cases in the last two decades—representing whistleblowers, military personnel, and a wide range of other clients in national security, environmental, constitutional, and other types of cases. Among them:

  • Lead counsel in Brown v. Buhman, for the Brown family from the TLC reality series Sister Wives, in their challenge of Utah's criminalization of polygamy.
  • Lead counsel for five former United States Attorneys General in litigation during the Clinton Impeachment in federal court.
  • Lead counsel to 'Five Wives Vodka" in successful challenge of ban on sales in Idaho due to a finding that the product was insulting to Mormons.
  • Lead counsel representing Dr. Sami Al-Arian in securing this release for civil contempt and later in defense of criminal contempt charges (which were dropped after years of litigation).
  • Larry Hanauer, a House Intelligence Committee staff member falsely accused of leaking classified information to the New York Times.[51]
  • David Faulk, a whistleblower who revealed abuses at NSA's Fort Gordon surveillance programs.[52]
  • Defendants in terrorism cases, including Dr. Ali al-Tamimi (the alleged head of the Virginia Jihad/Paintball conspiracy).[54]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 George Washington University Law School, Jonathan Turley
  2. A Farewell To Sid Yates, Chicago Tribune, October 10, 2000
  3. The John Marshall Law School, January 20, 2008
  4. 4.0 4.1 Release Elderly Inmates, by Jonathan Turley, Los Angeles Times, October 7, 2006
  5. George Washington University Law School, The Project for Older Prisoners
  6. Get Congress Out of the Page Business, by Jonathan Turley, New York Times, October 4, 2006
  7. 7.0 7.1 The Free World Bars Free Speech, by Jonathan Turley, Washington Post, Sunday, April 12, 2009
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Turley, Jonathan (4 October 2007). "A liberal's lament: The NRA might be right after all". USA Today. Gannett Company. p. A 11. Archived from the original on 6 September 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Perjury Isn't a Political Decision, by Jonathan Turley, The Wall Street Journal, September 14, 1998
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Jonathan Turley Takes His Case to TV, Washington Post, July 30, 1998
  11. Jonathan Turley at MSNBC Jonathan Turley at MSNBC
  12. Temptation tops the Constitution, USA Today, March 22, 2005
  13. At New Network, Olbermann Sets Sights on MSNBC, The New York Times, June 19, 2011
  14. Is Bush Administration’s Bank Spy Program One Part of a Resurgent Total Information Awareness?, Democracy Now!, June 27, 2006
  15. USA Today's Board of Contributors, USA Today, March 22, 2011
  16. Jonathan Turley, A Guide to Citizen Law Enforcement: Fighting Environmental Crime at Facilities of the U.S. Department of Energy and Defense, published by Santa Barbara Project for Participatory Democracy, 1996
  17. 17.0 17.1 In Padilla interrogation, no checks or balances, Christian Science Monitor, September 4, 2007
  18. 9/11 Detainees in New Jersey Say They Were Abused With Dogs, New York Times, April 3, 2006
  19. 19.0 19.1 Mukasey's confirmation: a vote about torture, Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2007
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 National yawn as our rights evaporate, New law redefines habeas corpus law professor explains, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, October 17, 2006
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Health-law judge's prosecutor past, by Josh Gerstein, Politico, December 13, 2010
  22. Rachel Maddow Show: Jonathan Turley on War Crimes, Video, January 10, 2009
  23. "Polygamy laws expose our own hypocrisy". USA Today. Published: October 3, 2004.
  24. "Polygamy vs. Democracy". The Weekly Standard. Published: June 5, 2006.
  25. "The Floodgates Open: USA Today Promotes Polygamy".
  26. When a child dies, faith is no defense. Why do courts give believers a pass?, Washington Post, November 16, 2009
  27. "Bullying's Day in Court", USA Today, July 15, 2008
  28. The Punishment Fits the Times", USA Today, January 16, 2008.
  29. Scalia to Talk About Constitution to House Members, Los Angeles Times, January 05, 2011
  30. 30.0 30.1 "Troubling Times, a Troubling Nominee", USA Today, January 9, 2006
  31. "The Roberts Court: Seeing Is Believing", USA Today, July 5, 2006
  32. 32.0 32.1 "House Takes Up Impeachment Task With Time Short", Washington Post, November 15, 1998
  33. Turley, Jonathan. "Fire Eric Holder",USA Today, May 29, 2013
  34. Turley: Obama's "Become The Very Danger The Constitution Was Designed To Avoid", Real Clear Politics, December 5, 2013
  35. Boehner: House GOP files Obamacare suit
  36. Legal scholars split on wiretaps, The Washington Times, January 17, 2006
  37. Can Congress stop the war?, USA Today, January 17, 2007
  38. 38.0 38.1 Senate takes up impeachment of Louisiana judge, The Washington Times, December 7, 2010
  39. 39.0 39.1 Restoring the Republic 2008: Foreign Policy & Civil Liberties, The Future of Freedom Foundation, June 6, 2008
  40. NSA ruling much like a pig in parlor, Chicago Tribune, August 20, 2006
  41. CIA, US Justice Dept. to Investigate Destruction of Interrogation Tapes, Voice of America News, December 08, 2007
  42. The Worst Congress Ever, Rolling Stone, October 17, 2006
  43. Clinton Impeachment Testimony House Judiciary Committee, August 20, 2007
  44. The Impeachment Hearings, Debate on Article IV, Federal News Service, December 12, 1998
  45. History of the Opinion Awards, The Week Magazine, April 14, 2010
  46. The Lawdragon 500 for 2008, October 16, 2008
  47. The Blawg 100, ABA Journal, December 2, 2008
  48. The Turley Blog Leads in Vote on Best Law Professor and Legal Theory Blogs, Jonathan Turley blog, December 27, 2008
  49. Public intellectuals : a study of decline, by Richard A. Posner, Harvard University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-674-00633-X
  50. Jonathan Turley blog
  51. House Staff Member Cleared in Inquiry on Leak of Iraq Intelligence Estimate, New York Times, November 22, 2006
  52. Jonathan Turley to Advise NSA Whitsle-blower, Legal Times and The National Law Journal, October 10, 2008
  53. Elizabeth Morgan Act and Legislating Family Values November 20, 2007
  54. Dr. Al-Arian's Lawyers in Virginia, Free Sami Al-Arian website
  55. Lawyer views high court appeal of Area 51 lawsuit a longshot, Las Vegas Sun, Aug. 7, 1998
  56. At last, a glimpse of Area 51, Las Vegas Sun, April 18, 2000
  57. Pershing Park lawyers fees top $2M, The Washington Post, March 4, 2011
  58. Some Flats data public, The Denver Post, May 06, 2008

External links