Meltzer Returns to Harvard Law School

Harvard Law School professor Daniel J. Meltzer ’72 will be leaving his post as Principal Deputy Counsel to the President and will return to the Law School to teach next fall.

Meltzer initially intended to serve at the White House for only one year, but decided to extend his leave after former Counsel to the President Gregory B. Craig ’67 resigned in November. Craig, who helped to select Meltzer as his deputy, was succeeded by Robert F. Bauer ’73.

Meltzer wrote that he was “delighted” to continue his work at the White House in an e-mail. “The work remained enormously interesting and [Bauer] is a superb lawyer with whom I knew I would enjoy working,” he said.

Meltzer’s last day at the White House will be June 1.

“He’s done everything,” Craig told the New York Times. “It’s going to be a great loss for the administration that Dan is going back to the academic world.”


In 2007 Meltzer wrote an article with Law School Professor Richard H. Fallon which held that civilians held in the United States or Guantanamo Bay as enemy combatants have a right to contest detainment in a civilian court.

Meltzer represented the White House in discussions with other government agencies about detainee habeas-corpus lawsuits, and worked to further efforts to Meltzer also helped to prepare Justice Sonia Sotomayor for her senate confirmation hearings. It is unclear whether or not Meltzer will also assist in the preparation of the administrations’s nominee to replace Justice John Paul Steven’s seat on the court.

Meltzer wrote “If asked, I would try to be as helpful to the Counsel’s office as I could be.”

Meltzer, who teaches a class at the Law School on federal courts, said that his teaching will change as a result of his experience as Principal Deputy Counsel.

“I have learned a great deal about how many kinds of executive and legislative decisions are made and that will inform the way that I think about and discuss those issues,” Meltzer wrote.

Meltzer added that the biggest challenge of his role has been providing sound advice on a wide variety of topics “about which one has little background knowledge, all too often with very little time to research or reflect.”

Meltzer wrote, “I suppose the biggest achievement, in a global sense, relates to those circumstances—I hope at least that we generally succeeded in providing sound advice, and avoided making large mistakes in a situation in which it is all too easy to do so.”

Meltzer’s wife has remained in Cambridge while Meltzer has commuted to Washington. Meltzer said his wife was “marvelously understanding” of his decision to stay on.

While Meltzer wrote that he expects that Obama will be reelected for a second term, he added that he has not given thought to whether or not he would like to serve in the administration again

“When working in the White House, one tends to adopt a very short time horizon,” Meltzer wrote. “For myself 2013 and beyond is farther than I can see right now.”

—Staff writer Zoe A. Y. Weinberg can be reached at zoe.weinberg@college.