David Jeremiah Barron

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David Jeremiah Barron
David J Barron 2013.PNG
Barron in 2013
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
Assumed office
May 23, 2014
Appointed byBarack Obama
Preceded byMichael Boudin
Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel
In office
Preceded bySteven G. Bradbury (Acting)
Succeeded byJonathan G. Cedarbaum (Acting)
Personal details
David Jeremiah Barron

(1967-07-07) July 7, 1967 (age 51)
Washington, D.C.
Spouse(s)Juliette Kayyem
EducationHarvard University (B.A.)
Harvard Law School (J.D.)

David Jeremiah Barron (born July 7, 1967) is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and former S. William Green Professor of Public Law at Harvard Law School. He previously served as the Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel at the United States Department of Justice.

Barron, is known for his controversial legal memo justifying the use of lethal drone strikes against U.S. citizens without judicial process.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Barron was born on July 7, 1967, in Washington, D.C. and is the son of George Washington University Law School professor and former dean Jerome A. Barron.[2] He received a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in 1989, from Harvard College, serving as president of the Harvard Crimson. After graduation, he worked as a reporter for The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, from 1989 to 1991. Returning to school, he received a Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, in 1994, from Harvard Law School, serving on the Harvard Law Review. He worked as a law clerk for Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 1994 to 1995 and for Justice John Paul Stevens of the United States Supreme Court from 1995 to 1996. He worked as an attorney-advisor in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel from 1996 to 1999.[3]

Academic career[edit]

Barron joined the Harvard Law School faculty as an assistant professor in 1999 and became a professor in 2004. He left the faculty upon his confirmation to the Court of Appeals in 2014.[4][5]

In 2009, while on leave from his faculty position, Barron rejoined the Office of Legal Counsel as Acting Assistant Attorney General. In 2010, he authored a secret memo which provided the legal foundation for President Obama's unprecedented decision to order a drone strike on Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was a radical Islamic militant living in Yemen.[6] Barron's memo was described by The New York Times Editorial Board as "a slapdash pastiche of legal theories — some based on obscure interpretations of British and Israeli law — that was clearly tailored to the desired result."[7] A lawyer for the ACLU described the memo as "disturbing" and "ultimately an argument that the president can order targeted killings of Americans without ever having to account to anyone outside the executive branch."[8]

For Barron's service, he received the National Intelligence Exceptional Achievement Medal from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as well as the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service.[5]

Barron returned to the Harvard Law School faculty in 2010 and was named the S. William Green Professor of Public Law in 2011. In 2012, he was appointed by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.[9] and the Massachusetts State College Building Authority.[3] He left academia in 2014 after his confirmation as a federal judge.[4]

Federal judicial service[edit]

On September 24, 2013, President Obama nominated Barron to serve as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, to the seat vacated by Judge Michael Boudin, who took senior status on June 1, 2013.[10] On January 16, 2014, his nomination was reported out of committee.[11] On Thursday, May 15, 2014 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a motion to invoke cloture on the nomination. On Wednesday, May 21, 2014, the Senate agreed to the motion to invoke cloture by a vote of 52-43.[12] Several senators, including Mark Udall (D) and Rand Paul (R), pledged to oppose Barron's nomination unless the administration publishes the secret memos Barron authored on the legality of killing American citizens with drone strikes.[13] Until senators began raising concerns about Barron's nomination, only those on the Judiciary and Intelligence committees had seen any of the classified memos.[14] On May 22, 2014, the Senate voted 53–45 for final confirmation to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.[15] He received his judicial commission on May 23, 2014.[4]


Barron is known for coauthoring with Martin S. Lederman a Harvard Law Review article titled "The Commander in Chief at the Lowest Ebb - Framing the Problem, Doctrine and Original Understanding," Harvard Law Review, Vol. 121, Pg. 689, January 2008, which was an attack of the advice given by the Office of Legal Counsel to President George W. Bush justifying Bush's use of executive power during the War on Terror.[16]

In 2016, Simon & Schuster published his book Waging War: The Clash Between Presidents and Congress, 1776 to ISIS.[17][18] In February 2017, Barron was named the winner of Norwich University's 2017 Colby Award, which is awarded for works that make major academic contributions to the understanding of military history, intelligence activities, and foreign relations.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roberts, Dan (21 May 2014). "US Senate clears way for drone memo author's judicial nomination" – via The Guardian.
  2. ^ Freedman, Jamie L. (Fall 2007). "Striking a Chord". GW Law School magazine. Washington, DC.
  3. ^ a b "President Obama Nominates David Jeremiah Barron to Serve on the United States Court of Appeals". White House. 24 September 2013.
  4. ^ a b c "Barron, David Jeremiah - Federal Judicial Center". www.fjc.gov.
  5. ^ a b White House Office of the Press Secretary (2013-09-24). "President Obama Nominates David Jeremiah Barron to Serve on the United States Court of Appeals" (Press release). Washington, D.C. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  6. ^ "Secret U.S. Memo Made Legal Case to Kill a Citizen". The New York Times. 9 October 2011.
  7. ^ "A Thin Rationale for Drone Killings". The New York Times. 2014-06-24. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  8. ^ Lauter, David; Phelps, Timothy (2014-06-23). "Memo justifying drone killing of American Al Qaeda leader is released". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  9. ^ "David J. Barron". Harvard Law School. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  10. ^ "Presidential Nominations Sent to the Senate". 24 September 2013.
  11. ^ "Executive Business Meeting". United States Senate. Committee on the Judiciary. Archived from the original on 2014-03-05. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  12. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 113th Congress - 2nd Session". Vote Summary: Vote Number 161. United States Senate. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  13. ^ "White House to provide lawmakers access to drone memo authorizing killing of American". Washington Post. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  14. ^ Serwer, Adam (2014-05-16). "Left at odds over nomination of kill memo author David Barron". MSNBC.com. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
  15. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 113th Congress - 2nd Session". United States Senate. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  16. ^ "The Awlaki memo and Marty Lederman". Salon.com. 2011-10-09. Retrieved 2014-05-18.
  17. ^ "Waging War".
  18. ^ Barron, David J. Waging War: The Clash between Presidents and Congress, 1776 to ISIS. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016. ISBN 9781451681970 OCLC 944380362
  19. ^ "David J. Barron Wins Norwich University Award for Best Military Book". 15 February 2017.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Michael Boudin
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit