Lee Gelernt is a lawyer at the ACLU's national office in New York. Mr. Gelernt has won numerous awards for his work and has been recognized as one of the nation's 500 leading lawyers in any field, a list that contains only a handful of public interest attorneys. He has argued dozens of groundbreaking civil rights cases in the federal courts, including in the U.S. Supreme Court, and has testified as an expert before both houses of Congress.
During the past two years, he has argued some of the most high profile cases involving Trump Administration policies, including:
In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, he litigated several high profile national security cases and served as one of only a few human rights observers at Guantanamo Bay for the first military trial conducted by the U.S. since World War II. One of these was the U.S. Supreme Court case of Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, in which he argued the constitutionality of the government’s post 9-11 policy of using the federal material witness statute to investigate and preventively detain terrorism suspects in cases where was no probable cause to justify a criminal arrest.
Mr. Gelernt also successfully argued one the very first major September 11 cases to reach the federal courts of appeals, Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft, where he represented the media in their lawsuit seeking to prevent the government from holding secret deportation hearings after September 11. In its decision invalidating the government’s secret hearing policy, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals stated that “democracies die behind closed doors” – a phrase that became one of the most cited and well-known admonitions issued by the judiciary in the aftermath of September 11.
In addition to his work at the ACLU, Mr. Gelernt is an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, and for several years taught at Yale Law School as an adjunct. His speaking engagements have included West Point, the NAACP’s national convention, the American Bar Association’s national conference, and virtually every major law school in the country. He regularly appears in the national and international media, including the New York Times; Washington Post; Wall Street Journal; Los Angeles Times; NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered; CNN; NBC’s Nightly News and Today Show; ABC’s World News Tonight and Good Morning America; CBS’s 60 Minutes, Evening News and This Morning; PBS’s The News Hour and Frontline; MSNBC; FOX News; BBC radio and television; and numerous other shows and podcasts.