Judge Bianco on Terrorism and the Role of Judges

As Assistant U.S. Attorney, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, and former employee of the United States Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Joseph F. Bianco ’91 prosecuted some of the most notorious terrorism cases to date. He now finds himself sitting on the other side of the bench.

Judge Bianco discussed his new position before a student audience at a lunchtime talk hosted by the Columbia Law School Federalist Society on March 22. During the discussion, titled “The Role of Terrorism on Judges and Judicial Activism,” he conceded a need for tribunals and some other controversial judicial forums when prosecutors’ hands are otherwise tied by their inability to present overwhelming evidence that is classified by another country or the U.S. government. “People will say to me, ‘Well, just let it go through the open court system,’ but without that classified evidence, some cases just won’t go very far,” said Judge Bianco, who became the youngest seated federal judge in December 2005.

“Reading opinions in case books, one can forget that a judge is a living, breathing person anxious to arrive at the ‘right’ decision when such a panacea may not be achievable,” said attendee Gabriel Gershowitz ’09. “Judge Bianco offers a model for nevertheless striving for that admirable goal.”

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