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Saturday, July 13, 2024 | Back issues
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Fired Gitmo Critic Can’t Keep Former Job Unfilled

(CN) - A former assistant director at the Library of Congress can't stop the institution from filling the job he was allegedly fired from for writing an op-ed critical of detainee trials at Guantanamo Bay, a federal judge ruled.

Col. Morris Davis is a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force who until 2007, when he stepped down, was responsible for overseeing the military trials of suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Davis then accepted a job as assistant director of the Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade section at the Library of Congress. In the meantime, Davis had also become a vocal critic of the military trials.

In an article published by Salon, Davis accused the "reformed" commissions of trying to make "a silk purse out of a sow's ear of justice." He also criticized the detainee prosecutions in opinion pieces for the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

The November 2009 Wall Street Journal article said: "The administration must choose. Either federal courts or military commissions, but not both, for the detainees that deserve to be prosecuted and punished for their past conduct.

"Double standards don't play well in Peoria," he continued. "They won't play well in Peshawar or Palembang either. We need to work to change the negative perceptions that exist about Guantanamo and our commitment to the law. Formally establishing a legal double standard will only reinforce them."

He did not mention his work for the Library of Congress in any article but nevertheless faced discipline and termination from his job days after the Journal published his op-ed.

In June, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton advanced Davis' First Amendment claim against Librarian of Congress James Billington, finding that "there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the plaintiff was a high-level employee," which would require him to use extra care in his exercise of free speech.

However, Walton declined Friday to issue an injunction enjoining Billington from filling Davis' now open position.

"With factual disputes yet to be tested and potentially resolved on further motions for summary judgment ... or at trial, it follows that the plaintiff, at best, has an equal chance of succeeding as he does losing on his First Amendment claims," Walton said.

The judge noted that mere economic loss does not establish "irreparable" harm, and that Davis has no proof that his vacant job, or a comparable position, will not be available when his claims are resolved.

"The Court is not unsympathetic to the fact that the plaintiff may never recover the loss of income associated with his allegedly unlawful termination, which are not insignificant," Walton said.

However, Davis currently earns a salary of $73,000 working as a law school professor, on top of his annual military pension of $72,000.

"The Court is, therefore, hard pressed to conclude that absent preliminary injunctive relief, the plaintiff is experiencing, and will continue to experience, irreparable financial harm during the pendency of this action with income of this magnitude," Walton concluded.

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