Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court: Who is John Bates?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Three years after he was first appointed to serve on the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), John D. Bates took over as the presiding judge. Bates has been a federal judge for almost 10 years, serving on the U.S. District Court based in Washington, DC, since his appointment in 2001 by President George W. Bush.

Born on October 11, 1946, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Bates graduated from Wesleyan University in 1968, and then wound up serving as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army for three years. His service included a tour in Vietnam.
Bates enrolled in law school at the University of Maryland, receiving his JD in 1976. He
clerked for Judge Roszel C. Thomsen of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland from 1976 to 1977 and was an associate at Steptoe & Johnson from 1977 to 1980.
For the next 17 years, Bates worked as an Assistant United States Attorney in Washington. This included serving as chief of the Civil Division from 1987 to 1997. He was on detail as deputy independent counsel for the Whitewater investigation from 1995 to mid-1997.
In 1998, he joined the Washington law firm of Miller & Chevalier, where he was chair of the Government Contracts Litigation Department and a member of the executive committee.
Bates joined the federal bench in 2001 when he was appointed by President Bush to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Five years later, on February 22, 2006, he was appointed by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to serve as a judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. He replaced Judge James Robertson, who resigned in protest against President Bush’s warrantless surveillance program.
On May 18, 2009, Bates was made the presiding judge of the FISC.
Among his District Court rulings, Bates dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Government Accountability Office seeking disclosure of records of Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force.
In July 2007, Bates threw out a lawsuit by Valerie Plame, who accused members of the Bush administration of leaking her identity as a CIA operative in retaliation for her husband Joe Wilson’s claim that intelligence was manipulated to justify the Iraq invasion in 2003. Bates said the lawsuit raised “important questions relating to the propriety of actions undertaken by our highest government officials,” but decided Plame and Wilson failed to show the case belonged in federal court.
During the controversy over the Bush administration’s firing of several U.S. Attorneys, Bates ruled that the White House cannot ignore subpoenas from Congress seeking testimony from the president’s staff. President Bush’s former top political advisor, Karl Rove, insisted at the time that he was not bound to appear before a congressional committee investigating the removal of U.S. Attorneys for political reasons.
In another ruling, handed down in May 2009, Bates rejected aspects of the Obama administration’s definition of who can legally be held as a prisoner in the war on terror. He okayed detention for members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban, but threw out the idea that mere support for al-Qaeda activities was sufficient grounds for detaining someone indefinitely.
Bates has served on the Advisory Committee for Procedures of the DC Circuit and on the Civil Justice Reform Committee for the District Court, and as treasurer of the DC Bar, chairman of the Publications Committee of the DC Bar, and chairman of the Federal Litigation Section of the Federal Bar Association. He was a member of the board of directors of the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. In 2005, he was appointed by Chief Justice William Rehnquist to serve on the U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Judge John D. Bates (U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia)
John D. Bates (Wikipedia)


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