Stanford Law Professor Jenny Martinez is just 33, yet she’s already stood before the Supreme Court to argue a case she is very passionate and very knowledgeable about, the case of “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla.
Padilla, an American citizen, was picked up on May 8, 2002, as a material witness, while flying into O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. A month later, the government classified him as an “enemy combatant” and a “grave threat” to national security, alleging initially that he had participated in a plot to detonate a radioactive, or “dirty,” bomb. He was sent to a South Carolina Navy brig, where he was prevented from seeing his lawyers for two years.
Martinez wrote an amicus brief on the case, drawing on her experience as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and a clerk to the judge of the Hague’s U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Then she was invited first to assist Padilla’s legal team and later to come on as co-counsel. The case was remanded back to a lower federal court by the Supreme Court. Late last month, government prosecutors appealed a February federal court decision that they must charge Padilla with a crime or let him go. A decision is expected soon from the U.S. Court of Appeals based in Richmond, Va.
The case, whatever its outcome, will have wide reverberations because the government is claiming new powers to make executive arrests and suspend habeas corpus for an American citizen. If it gets its way, Martinez argues, the government could do the same to anyone..