Barron Narrowly Confirmed by Senate Despite Drone Memo

Harvard Law School professor David J. Barron ’89 was confirmed by the full Senate for a seat on the bench of the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday afternoon in a narrow vote of 53 to 45, despite continued criticism of his role in establishing the legal justification for drone strikes on American terrorists abroad.

Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana joined Senate Republicans in opposition of the Barron’s nomination.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brought the nomination to the full Senate only after the White House announced that it would not appeal the public release of the drone memo allegedly written by Barron when he was a lawyer for the Department of Justice. The memo, which many Democratic and Republican senators have cited as a roadblock to their support of Barron’s nomination, established the legal justification for the targeted drone strike that killed American-born terrorist Anwar Al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011.

Senator Rand Paul, of Kentucky, filibustered on the Senate floor for roughly a half hour Wednesday morning in opposition to the appointment before a procedural vote passed on party lines.

The confirmation on Thursday gives Barron a lifetime appointment to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which is located in Boston and has jurisdiction over Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico.

In early May, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to all 100 senators that called Barron’s memo the “legal foundation” for a “large-scale killing program,” and urged senators to read the memo before voting.

Barron, who served as president of The Crimson and attended Harvard Law School before returning to teach, is married to Massachusetts Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Juliette N. Kayyem ’91. He most recently chaired a task force charged by University President Drew G. Faust with writing a new, University-wide email privacy policy, which was approved by the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, earlier this semester.

Barron did not return repeated requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.

—Staff writer Tyler S. Olkowski can be reached at tyler.olkowski@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @OlkowskiTyler.

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