Detention & Guantanamo

Bob Loeb: A Word of Appreciation

By Benjamin Wittes
Thursday, March 7, 2013, 8:16 AM

I don't normally---or ever, really---write posts based on law firm press releases. But I'm going to make an exception this time for this announcement by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe about Robert Loeb:

Washington, D.C., – Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP announced today that Robert ("Bob") M. Loeb, the former Acting Deputy Director of the Appellate Staff of the Civil Division at the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ"), has joined the firm as a partner in its Supreme Court & Appellate Litigation practice, resident in Washington, D.C.

During his nearly 25 years at the DOJ, Mr. Loeb briefed hundreds of cases in the courts of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing more than 100 appeals in all.  He has appeared in every federal circuit and numerous en banc cases. He has represented the United States, government agencies and high-ranking government officials, including two former Secretaries of Defense in their individual capacities in multiple appellate matters, during both Democratic and Republican administrations.

For the last several years, Bob's shop---and Bob personally---has managed the Guantanamo habeas appeals and numerous other national security litigations we have covered at length on this site. The government side of these cases is a quiet bunch. They don't write guest posts for the site, issue press releases, or make television appearances. They are not a part of a larger political cause. Their job is to represent the federal government, often in very unpopular positions. They have done this, amid much criticism and jeering, on a day-in-day-out basis for years now---without fanfare, without fawning profiles being written of them, and with enormous aggregate success. Along the way, they have been an important, if entirely unsung, part of the lawmaking project that has taken place in the district court and D.C. Circuit, a process which has defined the rules of detention and made important law in other areas too.

We often talk about the importance of the role that counsel for detainees and groups like the ACLU and CCR play in this process. But I want to use the occasion of Bob's departure from the Justice Department to acknowledge this more hidden group of lawyers who also play a crucial role in the development of law in this space. I have no idea what Bob believes about any of the cases I have watched him argue or oversee---except that he has a client who is as entitled to a vigorous and responsible presentation before the courts as is an other client.

On a personal note, Bob has also been a great friend to this site---making sure we're aware of public filings and decisions.

His departure from Justice is a good opportunity to reflect on---and appreciate---the role that government counsel plays in these cases.

Here's wishing him all the best in his next professional adventure.