Guantanamo Observed

From law clinics to military commissions
February 13, 2013

Duke Law School’s Guantanamo Defense Clinic has been granted observer status by the Defense Department. Some clinic students are getting the chance to see military commissions in action. Law students Jesse Kobernick and Julie Coleman spent this past fall’s study break observing hearings at Guantanamo Naval Base. Other students traveled there early this semester.

“It was very useful to take the research we do in the clinic— delving into legislative history and digging into cases that date back decades—and see how it might actually impact the pretrial hearings. It brought a lot of our work home to me,” says Kobernick.

Entering the courtroom involved “three security checks, and you could bring in paper, but not pens,” recalls Coleman. “They provided pens once you were in. The viewing gallery was behind a triple pane of glass. We could see everything happening live, but the audio was on a delay. If anything classified or close to classified came up, it was muted. And all photos, even of the courthouse exterior, were banned.”

The clinic gained observer status after demonstrating its “actual, traceable, substantive contributions” to military-commission cases through a review of faculty and student research and writing, says lecturing fellow Gabriela McQuade J.D. ’10. She co-teaches the clinic with law professor Madeline Morris.