Ramzi Kassem is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute and a Professor of Law at the City University of New York. His writing, teaching, and clinical legal practice all aim to contest the expressions and excesses of the sprawling U.S. security state, both domestically and abroad. Professor Kassem argued Tanzin v. Tanvir before the U.S. Supreme Court, a landmark civil rights case challenging the federal government’s abuse of watchlists, resulting in a unanimous decision for his clinic’s clients. In Raza v. City of New York, another groundbreaking litigation challenging secret police surveillance, Professor Kassem helped negotiate a historic settlement restricting surveillance of constitutionally protected religious and political activity.
Professor Kassem and his students have also defended fifteen prisoners of various nationalities incarcerated without fair process at Guantánamo Bay, Bagram Air Base, and other secret or disclosed U.S. facilities worldwide. Their advocacy has established important law-of-war precedent and resulted in the liberation of eleven clients so far. This includes the only prisoner released from Guantánamo during the Trump administration, for whom Professor Kassem was lead defense counsel before a military commission on charges of war crimes in United States v. Ahmed al-Darbi.
Since 2009, Professor Kassem has served as the founding director of CLEAR at CUNY School of Law. For over a decade, he also directed or co-directed the law school’s Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic. Before joining CUNY, Professor Kassem taught law at Yale and Fordham.
Professor Kassem’s writing has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, The Guardian, and other outlets. He is a graduate of Columbia College and holds law degrees from Columbia Law School, where he was a Senior Editor for the Columbia Law Review, and from the Sorbonne.
In 2020, Professor Kassem was named to the inaugural class of twelve Freedom Scholars selected nationwide in recognition of their work towards social, racial, and economic justice.