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Tue Dec 17, 2013, 08:59 PM

Judge Has Record of Wrestling With Thorny Issues, and the U.S. Government

Judge Has Record of Wrestling With Thorny Issues, and the U.S. Government

By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG

WASHINGTON — Judge Richard J. Leon, who shook up Washington on Monday by declaring a National Security Agency data collection program “almost Orwellian,” is a conservative and a vivid writer who does not shrink from criticizing the federal government on matters as varied as pornography, death penalty drugs and terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

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Judge Leon, 64, a Republican nominated on Sept. 10, 2001, by President George W. Bush and confirmed in 2002, has backed the government in past cases. He did so in 2005, holding that detainees at Guantánamo had no right to due process (though he later ordered the release of some).

He is an expert on congressional inquiries. He has worked on several cases involving sitting presidents, including the Iran-contra investigation under President Ronald Reagan and the Whitewater inquiry under President Bill Clinton, and teaches a course on the topic with John D. Podesta, a Democratic elder statesman who will soon become a counselor to President Obama.

“I met Dick Leon under rather unusual circumstances,” Mr. Podesta, a former chief of staff to Mr. Clinton who also led frantic efforts to defend the president in an array of scandals, said in an email on Monday. “He was the Republican chief counsel investigating Whitewater. Yet, we have still formed a strong bond in the classroom because Judge Leon is an honorable guy and a straight shooter.”

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http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/17/us/politics/judge-has-never-let-presidents-off-easy-on-pornography-terrorism-or-surveillance.html?_r=0

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