GW Law Professor and Students File Challenge to Libyan War on Behalf of Members of Congress

Challenge Explores Presidential Say-So on Libyan War Without Congressional Consent


GW Law students and Professor Jonathn Turley (far right) with two of their
clients, U.S. Representatives Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers.

June 15, 2011—Today at the U.S. Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, on behalf of 10 members of Congress, George Washington University Law professor Jonathan Turley and a student litigation team filed a historic challenge to the Libyan War claiming that the President of the United States of America does not have the inherent authority to order combat operations without Congressional approval.

“We were deeply honored to represent these courageous members of Congress in their defense of important constitutional limitations on executive power,” said Professor Turley. “While there are many uncertain questions under the Constitution, this is not one of them. Despite their sharp ideological differences, these members are bond by deep faith in the Constitution and a sense of responsibility in defending its provisions. We expressed their concerns and are eager to advance their claims in the judicial branch in this lawsuit.”

The plaintiffs, who are Democrats and Republicans from across the political spectrum, include the second-longest standing member of Congress, John Conyers, as well as leaders from both parties. The members are Representatives Roscoe Bartlett (R., MD.); Dan Burton (R., IN.); Mike Capuano (D., MA.); Howard Coble (R., NC); John Conyers (D., MI); John J. Duncan (R., TN); Tim Johnson (R., IL); Walter Jones (R., NC); Dennis Kucinich (D., OH) and Ron Paul (R., TX).

According to Professor Turley, the aforementioned members of Congress share a belief that Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution expressly requires the authorization of Congress before a president can commit the nation to war. This challenge goes beyond Libya and challenges the claim by an administration that the President has the inherent authority to order combat operations without the approval or declaration of Congress.

“The Framers spoke repeatedly and forcibly of their desire to bar presidents from committing the nation to war without congressional authorization and inserted an express limitation into Article I,” Professor Turley explained. “The last few years have vividly demonstrated the dangers that the Framers sought to avoid in dividing the war powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.”

With Professor Turley and GW students as legal counsel, these members asked the federal district court for review of the constitutional question and for recognition that the Constitution must allow for judicial review of claims of undeclared wars under Article I. Professor Turley was assisted in this case by student legal team Jodie Cheng, David Fox, Kyle Noonan, Eric Sidler, Geoff Turley (no relation to Professor Turley), and paralegal Ashley Klearman (MPS Dec., '11).

In The News

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Libya and the War Powers Resolution (audio, one-hour interview with Professor Turley)

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10 Congressmen And A Law Professor Just Sued To Stop The War In Libya

The Blog of the Legal Times
10 Congressmen File Suit Over War in Libya

PBS NewsHour
Libya, War Powers Start White House, Congress on Collision Course