Attorney for the ‘American Taliban’ to Speak at UT Knoxville

 

KNOXVILLE — John Walker Lindh, a 20-year-old American from California, was captured while fighting for the Taliban in December 2001. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on 10 charges. It became known as the case of the “American Taliban,” and Lindh’s attorney, James J. Brosnahan, will speak at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville College of Law on Tuesday, March 22.

Brosnahan will deliver the Wyc and Lyn Orr Distinguished Lecture at noon in the College of Law room 132. Free and open to the public, Brosnahan will lecture from the perspective of a senior lawyer, focusing on future challenges in the law based in part on examples from the past. The lecture will be parts anecdotal, philosophical and professional.

Brosnahan was featured in the March 2009 issue of theABA Journal as one of the “Lions of the Trial Bar,” a list of only seven attorneys older than 70 years of age who have “tried some of the most important cases of the last 50 years, dazzling juries and swaying judges.”

Brosnahan, a senior partner with the global law firm of Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco, accepted Lindh’s case in December 2001 after receiving a call from the young man’s father.

“I told John’s parents that I am not a movement lawyer and that I represent individual clients, not movements,” he said in the ABA Journal feature. “I told them if I ever got the feeling that I was being used for the purpose of a movement, that I was off the case.”

Immediately after accepting the case, Brosnahan began receiving death threats via telephone calls, e-mails and letters. He was forced to hire security guards at his home office and for traveling to and from court. The National Review labeled him the “American Tali-Lawyer.”

Brosnahan argued that Lindh was not a terrorist, but rather a teenager who went to study in Yemen and then agreed to join Afghan forces fighting against the Northern Alliance in that country’s civil war. In the end, Brosnahan negotiated an agreement where Lindh pled to lesser charges and received a sentence of 20 years without parole.

Over the past 50 years, Brosnahan has tried more than 140 cases to verdict. Some of his other notable cases include dismissal of all charges against Patricia Dunn (former chairperson of the board of Hewlett Packard Corp.), lead prosecutor in United States v. Caspar Weinberger, successfully defending the City of Oakland and County of Alameda in the Oakland Raiders litigation and representing El Paso Corp. in all its California litigation during the energy crisis.

His many awards include induction in the State Bar of California’s “Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame,” selection by the National Law Journal as one of America’s most influential trial attorneys and the 2007 American Inns of Court Lewis F. Powell Award for Professionalism and Ethics. He serves as master advocate of the Board of Trustees of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. He is the author of the “Trial Handbook for California Lawyers.”

A native of Boston, Brosnahan graduated from Boston College and later received the Bachelor of Laws from Harvard University in 1959.

The College of Law Orr lecture series is made possible through the support of the Orrs of Gainesville, Ga. Wyc Orr, a 1970 UT law alumnus, is a founding partner of the Gainesville firm of Orr Brown Johnson and has been a trial lawyer for almost four decades. He has tried a wide variety of cases, representing both plaintiffs and defendants before juries in 28 counties across Georgia as well as in federal court and courts-martial in West Germany during his days as a U.S. Army JAGC lawyer.

Brosnahan is the fourth “Lion” to lecture at the UT College of Law. The previous “Lions” were James Neal of Nashville, Bobby Lee Cook of Summerville, Ga., and Fred Bartlit Jr. of Chicago and Denver.

C O N T A C T :

Kristi Hintz (865-974-3993, khintz@utk.edu)

 

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