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Joseph Margulies

Professor of Practice

Joseph Margulies

White Hall, Room 216



For those who care about titles, I am a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. Like most people, however, I have diverse interests that are not well captured by the content of my business card. Sometimes, I am a student of American political culture. I study the way Americans construct and deploy magic words like "liberty", "equality," and especially, "the rule of law" to defend different social arrangements. Other times, I am a criminal defense and civil rights attorney. For many years, I have defended people caught up in the excesses of the national security state and the criminal justice system.

Wearing my civil rights hat, I was Counsel of Record in Rasul v. Bush (2004), involving detentions at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station, and in Geren v. Omar & Munaf v. Geren (2008), involving detentions at Camp Cropper in Iraq. Presently I represent Abu Zubaydah, who was held in CIA black sites and whose interrogation in 2002 and 2003 prompted the Bush Administration to draft the infamous "torture memos." In June 2005, at the invitation of Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), I testified at the first Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on detainee issues.

Wearing my academic hat, I have written two books: What Changed When Everything Changed: 9/11 and the Making of National Identity (Yale 2013), and Guantánamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power (Simon & Schuster 2006). Guantánamo won a bunch of awards, which was very nice. I have also written a slew of articles. Some have appeared in scholarly journals and others have found their way into the popular press, including the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, National Law Journal, Miami Herald, Christian Science Monitor, Virginia Quarterly Review, Legal Times, and The New Republic.


  • American Studies Program
  • Government

Graduate Fields

  • Government


Fall 2020