Abraham David Sofaer
|Abraham David Sofaer|
|Federal Judge for
the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
March 23, 1979 – June 9, 1985
|Nominated by||President Jimmy Carter (January 19, 1979)|
|Preceded by||Marvin E. Frankel|
|Legal Adviser of the Department of State|
June 10, 1985 – June 15, 1990
|Preceded by||Davis Rowland Robinson|
|Succeeded by||Edwin D. Williamson|
|Professor of Law at Columbia University School of Law|
|Alma mater||New York University School of Law (LL.B, 1965)|
|Author of War, Foreign Affairs, and Constitutional Power, historical account of the constitutional powers of Congress and the president to control or affect the use of force.|
Abraham David Sofaer (born 1938) was a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and then a legal adviser to the United States State Department. After retirement he became a George P. Shultz Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy and National Security Affairs at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
Education and career
Sofaer received a B.A. from Yeshiva University in 1962 and an LL.B. from New York University School of Law in 1965. After law school, he served as law clerk to J. Skelly Wright of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and later Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. of the United States Supreme Court from 1965 to 1967.
From 1967 to 1969, he was assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York. From 1969 to 1979, Sofaer was a professor of law at Columbia University School of Law, during which time he wrote War, Foreign Affairs, and Constitutional Power, an authoritative historical account of the constitutional powers of Congress and the president to control or affect the use of force. As a New York state administrative judge in 1975–76, he handled the first major environmental action involving PCBs, specifically their discharge by General Electric into the Hudson River.
He was nominated to the district court by Jimmy Carter on January 19, 1979, to a seat vacated by Marvin E. Frankel, confirmed by the United States Senate on March 21, 1979, and received his commission on March 23, 1979. His service terminated on June 9, 1985, due to resignation.
In 1985, then-Secretary of State George Schultz asked Sofaer to become Legal Adviser of the Department of State, a position in which he served until 1990. According to his Hoover Institution biography, Sofaer "was principal negotiator in various interstate matters that were successfully resolved, including the dispute between Egypt and Israel over Taba, the claim against Iraq for its attack on the USS Stark, and the claims against Chile for the assassination of diplomat Orlando Letelier. He received the Distinguished Service Award in 1989, the highest State Department award given to a non-civil servant."
After leaving the Department of State, Sofaer practiced law at Hughes Hubbard & Reed in Washington, D.C., from 1990 to 1994. In 1994, Sofaer was appointed George P. Shultz Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy and National Security Affairs at the Hoover Institution. His "work has focused on separation of powers issues in the American system of government, including the power over war, and on issues related to international law, terrorism, diplomacy, national security, the Middle East conflict, and water resources. He teaches a course on transnational law at the Stanford Law School."
Sofaer was subject to a grand jury investigation into whether he had made false statements in applying for a license from the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control to represent Libya.
Views on targeted killing
In an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2004, Sofaer wrote on the issue of targeted killing: "It is essential not to allow loaded rhetoric to obscure the propriety of lawfully using deadly force in self-defense." He stressed that while targeted killing may result in collateral damage, and it is impossible to guarantee that targeted killings will be soundly planned and implemented, such damage "must be avoided to the extent possible consistent with the military objective, and it must not be unreasonable in the circumstances". He wrote further:
When people call a targeted killing an "assassination", they are attempting to preclude debate on the merits of the action. Assassination is widely defined as murder, and is for that reason prohibited in the United States.... U.S. officials may not kill people merely because their policies are seen as detrimental to our interests.... But killings in self-defense are no more "assassinations" in international affairs than they are murders when undertaken by our police forces against domestic killers. Targeted killings in self-defense have been authoritatively determined by the federal government to fall outside the assassination prohibition.
Sofaer's father was a cousin of the actor Abraham Sofaer.
Articles included "Taking The War To The Terrorists" in Forbes (10/08), "War of resources" about Hezbollah (8/06), and an online debate, "Should Dictators Be Put to Death?" with Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch, on the Council on Foreign Relations Web site (6/06).
- Sofaer bio Hoover Institution. Retrieved 2-28-09.
- Abraham D. Sofaer (March 26, 2004). "Responses to Terrorism / Targeted killing is a necessary option". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- International Advisory Board of NGO Monitor
- "Op-Ed Archive" Hoover Institution Web site. Retrieved 2-28-09.
- Abraham David Sofaer at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- Abraham D. Sofaer – George P. Shultz Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
- Abraham D. Sofaer, Personal Website
Davis Rowland Robinson
|Legal Adviser of the Department of State
June 10, 1985 – June 15, 1990
Edwin D. Williamson