Professor Jonathan Turley is a nationally recognized legal scholar who has written extensively in areas ranging from constitutional law to legal theory to tort law. He has written over three dozen academic articles that have appeared in a variety of leading law journals at Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Northwestern, University of Chicago and other schools.
After a stint at Tulane Law School, Professor Turley joined the George Washington faculty in 1990 and, in 1998, was given the prestigious Shapiro Chair for Public Interest Law, the youngest chaired professor in the school’s history. In addition to his extensive publications, Professor Turley has served as counsel in some of the most notable cases in the last two decades including the representation of whistleblowers, military personnel, judges, members of Congress and a wide range of other clients. He is also one of the few attorneys to successfully challenge both a federal and a state law — leading to courts striking down the federal Elizabeth Morgan law as well as the state criminalization of cohabitation.
In 2010, Professor Turley represented Judge G. Thomas Porteous in his impeachment trial. After a trial before the Senate, Professor Turley (on December 7, 2010) argued both the motions and gave the final argument to all 100 U.S. Senators from the well of the Senate floor — only the 14th time in history of the country that such a trial of a judge has reached the Senate floor. Judge Porteous was convicted of four articles of impeachments, including the acceptance of $2000 from an attorney and using a false name on a bankruptcy filing.
In 2011, Professor Turley filed a challenge to the Libyan War on behalf of ten members of Congress, including Representatives Roscoe Bartlett (R., Md); Dan Burton (R., Ind.); Mike Capuano (D., Mass.); Howard Coble (R., N.C.); John Conyers (D., Mich.); John J. Duncan (R., Tenn.); Tim Johnson (R., Ill.); Walter Jones (R., N.C.); Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio); and Ron Paul (R., Tx). The lawsuit was before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
In November 2014, Turley agreed to serve as lead counsel to the United States House of Representatives in its constitutional challenge to changes ordered by President Obama to the Affordable Care Act. The litigation was approved by the House of Representatives to seek judicial review of the claims under the separation of powers. On May 12, 2016, the federal court handed down a historic victory for the House and ruled that the Obama Administration violated the separation of powers in ordering billions to be paid to insurance companies without an appropriation of Congress.
Other cases include his representation of the Area 51 workers at a secret air base in Nevada; the nuclear couriers at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; the Rocky Flats grand jury in Colorado; Dr. Eric Foretich, the husband in the famous Elizabeth Morgan custody controversy; and four former United States Attorneys General during the Clinton impeachment litigation. In the Foretich case, Turley succeeded recently in reversing a trial court and striking down a federal statute through a rare “bill of attainder” challenge. Professor Turley has also served as counsel in a variety of national security cases, including espionage cases like that of Jim Nicholson, the highest ranking CIA officer ever accused of espionage. Turley also served as lead defense counsel in the successful defense of Petty Officer Daniel King, who faced the death penalty for alleged spying for Russia. Turley also served as defense counsel in the case of Dr. Tom Butler, who is faced criminal charges dealing with the importation and handling of thirty vials of plague in Texas. He also served as counsel to Larry Hanauer, the House Intelligence Committee staffer accused of leaking a classified Presidential National Intelligence Estimate to the New York Times. (Hanauer was cleared of all allegations).
Among his current cases, Professor Turley represents Dr. Ali Al-Timimi, who was convicted in Virginia in 2005 of violent speech against the United States. In 2020, the federal court found that there was merit in the challenges raised by Professor Turley and his co-counsel Tom Huff. Accordingly, the judge ordered his release to protect him from Covid-19 while the Court prepared a decision on the challenges. Pursuant to a court order, Dr. Al-Timimi was released from the Supermax in Colorado and the two drove across the country so that he could be placed into home confinement. He also represented Dr. Sami Al-Arian, who was accused of being the American leader of a terrorist organization while he was a university professor in Florida. Turley represented Dr. Al-Arian for eight years, much of which was in a determined defense against an indictment for criminal contempt. The case centered on the alleged violation of a plea bargain by the Justice Department after Dr. Al-Arian was largely exonerated of terrorism charges in Tampa, Florida. On June 27, 2014, all charges were dropped against Dr. Al-Arian. He also represented pilots approaching or over the age of 60 in their challenge to the mandatory retirement age of the FAA. He also represented David Murphee Faulk, the whistleblower who disclosed abuses in the surveillance operations at NSA’s Fort Gordon facility in Georgia.
Professor Turley also served as an expert defense witness in the extradition proceedings of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in London. Turley was asked to testify on the likely pre-trial, trial and appellate issues facing Mr. Assange as well as the prison conditions that he could expect upon extradition to Northern Virginia for trial.
Professor Turley also agreed to serve as lead counsel representing the Brown family from the TLC program “Sister Wives, a reality show on plural marriage or polygamy. On December 13, 2013, the federal court in Utah struck down the criminalization of polygamy — the first such decision in history — on free exercise and due process grounds. On September 26, 2014, the court also ruled in favor of the Browns under Section 1983 — giving them a clean sweep on all of the statutory and constitutional claims. In April 2015, a panel reversed the decision on standing grounds and that decision is now on appeal.
Professor Turley was also lead counsel in the World Bank protest case stemming from the mass arrest of people in 2002 by the federal and district governments during demonstrations of the IMF and World Bank. Turley and his co-lead counsel Dan Schwartz (and the law firm of Bryan Cave) were the first to file and represented student journalists arrested without probable cause. In April 2015, after 13 years of intense litigation, the case was settled for $2.8 million, including $115,000 for each arrestee — a record damage award in a case of this kind and over twice the amount of prior damages for individual protesters. The case also exposed government destruction and withholding of evidence as well as the admitted mass arrest of hundreds of people without probable cause.
Professor Turley also served as the legal expert in the review of polygamy laws in the British Columbia (Canada) Supreme Court. In the latter case, he argued for the decriminalization of plural union and conjugal unions. In 2012, Turley also represented the makers of “Five Wives Vodka” (Ogden’s Own Distillery) in challenging an effective ban on the product in Idaho after officials declared the product to be offensive to Mormons. After opposing the ban on free speech and other grounds, the state of Idaho issued a letter apologizing for public statements made by officials and lifting the ban on sale for “Five Wives Vodka.”
Turley has served as a consultant on homeland security and constitutional issues, including with the Florida House of Representatives. He also served as the consultant to the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on the impeachment of Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá.
Professor Turley is a frequent witness before the House and Senate on constitutional and statutory issues as well as tort reform legislation. That testimony includes the confirmation hearings of Attorney General nominees Loretta Lynch and William Barr as well as Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Professor Turley is also a nationally recognized legal commentator. Professor Turley was ranked as 38th in the top 100 most cited “public intellectuals” in the recent study by Judge Richard Posner. Turley was also found to be the second most cited law professor in the country. He has been ranked in the top five most popular law professors on Twitter and has been repeatedly ranked in the nation’s top 500 lawyers in annual surveys (including in the latest rankings by LawDragon) – one of only a handful of academics. In prior years, he was ranked as one of the nation’s top ten lawyers in military law cases as well as one of the top 40 lawyers under 40. He was also selected in the last five years as one of the 100 top Irish lawyers in the world. In 2016, he was ranked as one of the 100 most famous (past and present) law professors.
Professor Turley is one of only two academics to testify at both the Clinton and Trump impeachment hearings. In December 2019, Professor Turley was called as the one Republican witness in the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearings. He appeared with three Democratic witnesses. Professor Turley disagreed with his fellow witnesses in opposing the proposed articles of impeachments on bribery, extortion, campaign finance violations or obstruction of justice. He argued that these alleged impeachable acts were at odds with controlling definitions of those crimes and that Congress has historically looked to the criminal code and cases for guidance on such allegations. The committee ultimately rejected those articles and adopted the only two articles that Professor Turley said could be legitimately advanced: abuse of power, obstruction of Congress. Chairman Jerrold Nadler even ended the hearing by quoting his position on abuse of power. However, Turley opposed impeachment on this record as incomplete and insufficient for submission to the Senate. He argued for the House to wait and complete the record by seeking to compel key witnesses like former National Security Adviser John Bolton. His testimony was later relied upon in the impeachment floor debate by various House members and he was cited by both the White House and House managers in their arguments before the United States Senate in the Trump impeachment trial, including videotaped remarks played at the trial.
Professor Turley’s articles on legal and policy issues appear regularly in national publications with hundreds of articles in such newspapers as the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal. He is a columnist for USA Today and writes regularly for the Washington Post. In 2005, Turley was given the Columnist of the Year award for Single-Issue Advocacy for his columns on civil liberties by The Aspen Institute and the Week Magazine. Professor Turley also appears regularly as a legal expert on all of the major television networks. Since the 1990s, he has worked under contract as the on-air Legal Analyst for NBC News, CBS News, BBC and Fox News. Professor Turley has been a repeated guest on Sunday talk shows with over two-dozen appearances on Meet the Press, ABC This Week, Face the Nation, and Fox Sunday. Professor Turley has taught courses on constitutional law, constitutional criminal law, environmental law, litigation, and torts. He is the founder and executive director of the Project for Older Prisoners (POPS). His work with older prisoners has been honored in various states, including his selection as the 2011 recipient of the Dr. Mary Ann Quaranta Elder Justice Award at Fordham University.
His award-winning blog is routinely ranked as one of the most popular legal blogs by AVVO. His blog was selected as the top News/Analysis site in 2013, the top Legal Opinion Blog in 2011 as well as prior selections as the top Law Professor Blog and Legal Theory Blog. It was also ranked in the top 20 constitutional law blog in 2018. It has been regularly ranked by the ABA Journal in the top 100 blogs in the world. In 2012, Turley was selected as one of the top 20 legal experts on Twitter by Business Insider. In 2013, the ABA Journal inducted the Turley Blog into its Hall of Fame.
Professor Turley received his B.A. at the University of Chicago and his J.D. at Northwestern. In 2008, he was given an honorary Doctorate of Law from John Marshall Law School for his contributions to civil liberties and the public interest.