Professor David Cole to Become ACLU’s National Legal Director

July 22, 2016

Georgetown Law Professor David Cole has been named the new national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union. In his new role, Cole will lead the ACLU’s Supreme Court practice and oversee the work of nearly 300 lawyers. Cole will take a leave from Georgetown to take on his new responsibilities.

Head shot of Professor David Cole

Professor David Cole

“We are proud that David has received this great honor,” Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanor said. “His contributions to Georgetown Law as a scholar, teacher and writer cannot be overstated, and we shall miss his thoughtful presence in our community on a daily basis. But we look forward to following the next stage of an outstanding career, and to welcoming him back upon his return.”

Cole, who in 2014 was named Georgetown Law’s inaugural George J. Mitchell Professor in Law and Public Policy, has taught constitutional law, national security and criminal justice since joining the Law Center faculty in 1990. He is the author of several award-winning books, including Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedom in the War on Terrorism, which won the American Book Award.  In his most recent book, Engines of Liberty — The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law, Cole argues that it is not the decisions of justices that drive constitutional change, but the efforts of ordinary citizens, working in association with civil society organizations such as the ACLU, as often as not through advocacy outside of the federal courts.

“I am honored to take up this challenge, at a time when the work of the ACLU is more necessary and vital than ever,” Cole said. “My scholarship has emphasized the importance of organizations like the ACLU in the constitutional life of our nation, and I look forward to working with its many talented and committed civil libertarians.”

A noted constitutional lawyer, Cole worked as a staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights from 1985 to 1990, and has continued to litigate as a professor at Georgetown. He has litigated several significant Supreme Court cases, including Texas v. Johnson and United States v. Eichman, which established First Amendment protection for flag burning. Cole has received many awards for his human rights work, including the inaugural Norman Dorsen Presidential Prize from the ACLU in 2013 for lifetime commitment to civil liberties.

A prolific writer, Cole is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, and the legal affairs correspondent for The Nation. He has been published widely in law journals and the popular press, including the Yale Law Journal, California Law Review, Stanford Law Review, New York Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker, The New Republic, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.

Cole received his bachelor’s degree and law degree from Yale University.

To view the ACLU announcement, click here.