Former DOJ Attorney on National Security Beat to Join Faculty
Aditya Bamzai, who has recently argued high-profile national security cases for the U.S. Department of Justice in the federal courts of appeals, will join the University of Virginia School of Law faculty this fall as an associate professor of law. In addition to national security law, his expertise and interests include administrative law, federal courts and civil procedure.
Working as an appellate attorney in the department's National Security Division from 2013 until this year, Bamzai represented the United States on such issues as the legality of bulk telephone metadata collection (the Supreme Court case In Re EPIC), the authority of prosecutors to strike deals to punish corporate criminal defendants (the D.C. Circuit case U.S. v. Fokker Services B.V.), and the scope of statutes that implement biological and chemical weapons treaties (the Supreme Court case Bond v. U.S.and the Sixth Circuit case U.S. v. Levenderis).
A graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, where he was the editor-in-chief of the law review, Bamzai will teach Civil Procedure and a new course, Computer Crime Law — a lecture course that will cover the domestic legal architecture of cyberlaw and look at controversial privacy and security issues from all sides.
"It’s only become clear to the public in the past few years how important cyber issues are to national security," Bamzai said. "On the one hand, we've seen a lot of transnational hacking instances, which highlight questions about the appropriate role of the federal government in combating cybercrime and the scope of criminal law in that area. On the other hand, the nation has been engaged in an ongoing debate about the government's authority to conduct surveillance to collect foreign intelligence. It's a challenging area that implicates a number of complex technical and legal issues."
In addition to electronic surveillance issues, Bamzai has experience arguing cases implicating the constitutional separation of powers.
In Fokker Services, decided in April, Bamzai argued the appeal on behalf of the government before the D.C. Circuit, prevailing in a closely watched case about prosecutorial authority to resolve criminal cases through deferred prosecution agreements. This method of resolving criminal cases, an alternative to trials and plea agreements, raises questions about the proper balance between prosecutorial discretion and judicial review. The government entered into a deal to resolve allegations that the Dutch aerospace company Fokker did business with three countries subject to trade sanctions — Sudan, Iran and Burma — but a lower court argued the punishment was too lenient. On appeal, the D.C. Circuit decided that the lower court’s decision invaded the prosecutor’s discretionary role.
"That case shows just how many different parties, such as companies that trade with other countries, may be affected by national security law," Bamzai said. And it demonstrates the relationships between national security law, administrative law and federal courts, he said — relationships that he intends to explore in future scholarship.
Bamzai previously served for three years as a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, where his practice focused on appeals. Before working at the firm, he was an attorney-adviser in the Office of Legal Counsel at DOJ.
He said he looks forward to joining the faculty, which includes friends such as Professor Leslie Kendrick, who was a U.S. Supreme Court clerk for Justice David Souter during the 2007-08 term, when Bamzai was a clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia. Bamzai previously clerked for Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Bamzai said he also looks forward to expanding his scholarship, which most recently has explored administrative law principles of judicial deference and the domestic statute criminalizing computer hacking. He has articles on the subjects forthcoming in the Yale Law Journal, the George Washington University Law Review and the Missouri Law Review. His Yale piece will specifically look at the origins and implications of the Chevron doctrine, which holds that the courts should defer to agency interpretations of law unless they are unreasonable.
"The article tries to trace back how that doctrine emerged in the American legal system over time, and what its roots were," he said. "There have been various theories over the years. So I tried to get a sense for how we got from Point A to Point B, and then also to see if there are any normative implications for today, because it's a doctrine that's widely discussed and has been the subject of a number of recent Supreme Court opinions."
Bamzai said scholarship is one reason he chose to come to UVA. In addition to having family in Northern Virginia and wanting a comfortable city in which to raise his children, with plenty of outdoor options to explore, he said, the faculty at the Law School were highly focused on his research when he delivered his job talk.
"When I presented at Virginia, members of the faculty had not only read the footnotes in the paper, but had read the cases that were cited in the footnotes," he said. “As I drove out of Charlottesville that evening, I remember thinking to myself how lucky I’d be to have the chance to be challenged by, and to learn from, the Law School’s amazing faculty and students.”
Faculty members say the feeling is mutual; they can learn a lot from Bamzai's practical experiences and scholarship.
“Aditya is a terrific lawyer, with an extraordinary range of high-level experience both in private practice and in government," said Professor Caleb Nelson, an expert in constitutional law, civil procedure and the federal courts. "He is also a thoughtful and rigorous scholar. The article that he’s about to publish in the Yale Law Journal is a tremendous accomplishment; not only does it correct the Supreme Court’s account of history in an important area that lies at the intersection of administrative law and statutory interpretation, but it also provides fresh insights into the intellectual background of the Administrative Procedure Act. It’s going to be the leading work in its field for years to come. I’m going to learn a great deal from Aditya, and I know that his students will too. I am thrilled that he’s joining the faculty.”