Donna Newman, Solo Practitioner, New York and New Jersey

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                                Donna Newman, Solo Practitioner, New York and New
                                Jersey
                                [by Regan Morris]
                                The story of alleged “enemy combatant” Jose Padilla has become a symbol of recent battles between the White House
                                and civil liberties advocates. LawCrossing speaks with Padilla’s attorney, Donna Newman, about her high-profile
                                client, her practice as a defense attorney, and her decision to start law school at age 35.




Donna Newman says the plight of her client          Padilla was arrested in May 2002 at                 On December 28, the Bush administration
Jose Padilla is a classic example of how the        Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport              asked the Supreme Court to allow Padilla to
Bush administration has abused its power            after returning from Pakistan. At the time,         be transferred from the military brig in South
under the cloak of national security. The sole      then-Attorney General John Ashcroft alleged         Carolina to civilian custody to stand trial.
practitioner from Brooklyn says locking up          Padilla planned to set off a “dirty bomb.” FBI      The request came in response to a ruling the
an American citizen for several years without       agents who followed Padilla from Pakistan           previous week by the U.S. Court of Appeals
charge as an enemy combatant should scare           arrested him on a material witness warrant          for the Fourth Circuit, refusing to allow
all Americans. She equates Padilla’s case           and transferred him to New York. Newman             Padilla to be moved to face charges in Miami.
with the revelation that some American              was appointed by the court to defend Padilla.
phones had been wiretapped without court                                                                The appeals court said that by charging
approval.                                           Before Newman could challenge the warrant           Padilla in criminal court after holding him
                                                    in court, Padilla was named an “enemy               for three-and-a-half years as an enemy
“I think it’s just another example that the         combatant” and handed over to the military.         combatant, the Bush administration gave
executive branch believes that they can take        Padilla was indicted in November 2005,              the appearance of trying to manipulate the
any of our rights and dilute them and then          three-and-a-half years after his initial            court system to prevent the Supreme Court
claim it’s in the interest of national security,”   arrest. Newman believes the timing of the           from hearing the case. The White House
Newman told LawCrossing while slowly                charges was politically motivated to avoid          said the court lacked the authority to defy a
driving across the Brooklyn Bridge during           Supreme Court scrutiny of the case. Padilla         presidential directive and noted that Padilla
the recent transport strike in New York. “I         was charged with membership in a North              himself had requested a transfer to civilian
get really enraged when people say, ‘I don’t        American terrorist-support cell and with            custody.
care if they listen, because I want to be safe.’    conspiracy to murder and kidnap.
You can’t give up your liberties, because it                                                            Newman said she hoped the case would get
doesn’t make you more safe; it makes you            “He was indicted in Florida, but he has not         its day in Supreme Court. When asked if
less safe.”                                         been transferred from South Carolina to             she planned to argue Padilla’s case in the
                                                    Florida as of yet, not to my knowledge,”            Supreme Court if it came to that, Newman
Newman, who left her practice as a speech           Newman said. “Because the Fourth Circuit            paused. Newman is no longer handling the
pathologist to start law school at age 35,          held up the transfer and asked the parties to       Padilla case alone and has the help of many
said the Bush administration’s actions often        brief on whether or not their decision, which       other attorneys.
remind her of a totalitarian regime.                we are appealing to the Supreme Court,
                                                    is moot, meaning it’s no longer a case of           “That’s a long way off,” she said of a possible
“When you don’t have your checks and                controversy, since he was indicted on other         Supreme Court argument. “I think it interests
balances, that’s exactly what Stalin did.           facts.”                                             every attorney. But every case is different,
Do you think Stalin got on his propaganda                                                               and you have to weigh what you think is best
approach saying, ‘This is the reason we’re          While Newman is now allowed to visit her            for your client, and sometimes it’s not your
hurting you’?” she said. “And when the              client in the brig, she is not allowed to ask       arguing. You can never let your ego get in the
Third Reich started to arrest civilians, do         him if he has been tortured or other sensitive      way of your client’s needs.”
you think they came out and said, ‘We’re            questions. Not asking certain questions
arresting them because of their religion’?          was part of the deal she made with the              Newman said her past careers as a speech
No. They said, ‘It’s in the interest of national    government, she said.                               pathologist and English teacher and her
security.’”                                                                                             experience as a mother have helped her


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be a better lawyer because she is a trained      own firm made sense because she needed a         rights that I have. My father so appreciated
listener. She graduated from New York            flexible schedule while raising her children.    it. People who were born here sometimes
Law School cum laude in 986 and was the                                                          don’t understand how important freedom is.
recipient of the Federal Litigation Award. She   “There is a path that you step on each day,      And through my father, who was one of the
also holds a Master’s of Science in education    and you may not know where it’s going to         most brilliant people I have ever known, I
from Brooklyn College of the City University     lead you. And I say, ‘Let go. See where it       appreciate that freedom.”
of New York.                                     goes,’” she said. “Be open to it. Because
                                                 if you take life and you bite into it, you get   Newman says there is no reason to give
Newman intended to build a practice in           so much from keeping your eyes open and          up civil liberties in order to feel safe from
medical malpractice to capitalize on her         [being] willing to try new things.”              terror. And she rejects assertions that people
medical background. But during law school,                                                        fighting for civil liberties are not patriotic.
she realized criminal law would be more          The daughter of a Romanian immigrant,
interesting.                                     Newman said her father taught her to             “When Mr. Padilla was taken by an executive
                                                 appreciate the freedom and rights she had as     order for what I knew to be and has come out
After clerking for several judges and working    an American.                                     to be—simply to interrogate him, it reminded
at a small firm, Newman started her own                                                           me of the Spanish Inquisition,” she said.
practice in 99 and maintains offices in New    “I’m very patriotic,” she said. “I want my
York and New Jersey. She said starting her       children and my grandchildren to have the




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Description: Donna Newman is solo practitioner, New York and New Jersey. American citizen for several years without charge as an enemy combatant should scare all Americans.
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