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Most international law scholars argue that the United States should give greater deference to international treaties and organizations. Not Jack Goldsmith III — the president’s pick to head the Justice Department’s influential Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). Goldsmith, until recently a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, has built his academic reputation by attacking rooted principles of international law. His recent articles support the validity of military tribunals to try suspected terrorists, dismiss the International Criminal Court as “unrealistic” and “perverse,” and defend the Bush administration’s national missile defense program against criticism that it violates the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty. For the past several months, Goldsmith has been detailed to the Defense Department, advising General Counsel William Haynes II on foreign policy issues. “Jack has proven to be an extraordinary help on a lot of issues,” Haynes says. “He’s a roll-up-his-sleeves kind of guy, which is a nice trait for someone with his brainpower.” As head of the OLC — long considered the Justice Department’s legal brain trust — the 40-year-old Goldsmith would provide legal advice to the president, attorney general, and executive agencies on a whole range of issues, including intra-agency disputes and complex constitutional questions. OLC opinions are binding on the executive and are seldom subject to judicial review. “The skill that is most important is the ability to fairly evaluate tough legal issues in an impartial way and not to view your role as an advocate,” says Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering partner Randolph Moss, who served as OLC chief from 1998 to 2000. “In many ways, you have to view your role as a judge, but a judge who tries to find an answer consistent with the law that also serves the interest of the country.” As the administration confronts legal questions connected to the war on terrorism and military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, Goldsmith’s views on international law and foreign policy will more than likely be sought routinely. “When I was in the office, a large portion of the issues that arose were issues that related to national security and the president’s authority in conducting foreign affairs,” says Charles Cooper, a partner at D.C.’s Cooper & Kirk who headed OLC under President Ronald Reagan. “Somebody well-grounded in these areas will obviously have a leg up.” Goldsmith declined comment. Even those who disagree fervently with some of Goldsmith’s views applaud his scholastic achievement, sound judgment, and good-natured personality. “Jack is a terrific choice,” says Peter Spiro, an international law professor at New York’s Hofstra University, adding that he and Goldsmith “disagree on just about everything.” “He is very comfortable engaging those who don’t agree with him. He never personalizes arguments,” adds Spiro, who previously served as an attorney in the OLC. “He is someone who plays it straight,” says Cass Sunstein, a left-leaning professor at the University of Chicago Law School. “He is not someone whose legal views are affected by his political views.” Sunstein and Goldsmith recently collaborated on a paper evaluating the public response to military tribunals. “We had issues to talk through, but it was never awkward,” Sunstein says. Says University of Chicago Law School professor Eric Posner: “He gets along with everybody, and everybody trusts him, even people who disagree with him on policy issues.” If confirmed, Goldsmith would replace former University of Nevada Law School professor Jay Bybee, whom the Senate confirmed for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in March. Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, a University of California at Berkeley School of Law professor who has served as the office’s international law and national security expert, is planning to leave the Justice Department over the summer and return to academia. According to those who know him, Goldsmith comes from somewhat humble beginnings. Born in Memphis, he and his two younger brothers grew up in Tennessee, Louisiana, and Florida. Goldsmith attended Lexington, Va.’s Washington & Lee University, where he earned a degree in philosophy. After graduating from Yale Law School in 1989, he clerked for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. Goldsmith went on to clerk for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and then worked as a legal assistant on the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal at The Hague. He spent approximately two years as an associate at D.C.’s Covington & Burling before joining the faculty of the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville. In 1997, Goldsmith left UVA to accept a post at the University of Chicago. He recently accepted a position back at UVA and plans to return after his stint in government service. “He has really cared about the law for a long time,” says Kirkland & Ellis partner Christopher Landau, who clerked on the Supreme Court the same year as Goldsmith. “He’s very literate. His apartment when we were clerking was one continuous bookshelf.” In addition to being a voracious reader, Goldsmith enjoys opera, fine wine, and is an avid jogger. He and his wife, Leslie Williams, have a two-year-old son, Jack IV. Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit performed the couple’s wedding ceremony. “He has a very good academic mind but he’s also a practical-minded person,” Posner says. “He’s not an ivory tower type.” Several of Goldsmith’s former colleagues say he possesses the capacity for both theoretical thinking and practical problem solving. “That kind of range is rare,” says John Jeffries, dean of UVA School of Law. “Some people are great abstract thinkers. Some people are great problem-solvers. You rarely get both.” Goldsmith has written on issues related to the Internet and U.S. constitutional law. But he is best known for his controversial positions on international law. In the late 1990s, Goldsmith and longtime friend UVA law professor Curtis Bradley co-wrote a series of law review articles that have become well-known in the international law community. The articles assault the academic consensus that customary international law should be treated as federal common law by the courts. For instance, according to Goldsmith and Bradley, international norms banning the use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders should not override state laws permitting it. “Broadly speaking, we raise questions about whether courts ought to develop rules on international law without guidance from Congress and the executive branch,” says Bradley. “There are obviously some people, particularly in the human rights area, who believe international law should be directly incorporated into our legal system.”

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