September 15, 2014

Courtney Sullivan, Justice Department Counterterrorism Attorney and Deputy Chief Prosecutor for Litigation of Office of Military Commissions, Joins Venable

4 min

Ms. Sullivan led prosecution of Bali bombers, a cell planning to attack an airliner, and an al Qaeda sleeper agent captured in the wake of 9/11; prosecuted plotters to assassinate the President, bomb NYC subway, and US Capitol; worked on prosecution of 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and U.S.S. Cole architect Abd al Rahim al Nashiri

Washington, DC (September 15, 2014) – In a noteworthy addition to its national litigation group, Venable LLP announced that Courtney A. Sullivan, a Department of Justice Counterterrorism Section Trial Attorney and former Deputy Chief Prosecutor for Litigation, Office of Military Commissions, has joined the firm as counsel in the Washington, DC office.

Ms. Sullivan, a leading authority on counter-terrorism, joins Venable directly from the DOJ, where, as a detailee to the Department of Defense she served as a deputy in charge of some50 attorneys who investigated and prosecuted international terrorists under the Reformed Military Commissions Act of 2009.

Since 2003, Ms. Sullivan served in a number of National Security positions, including as the Justice Department’s lead attorney in investigating and prosecuting conspirators responsible for more than 200 murders in the 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, and eleven murders in the 2003 Marriot bombing in Jakarta.

She was responsible for negotiating the first-ever guilty plea and cooperation agreement with an Al Qaeda High Value Detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which led to her receiving the inaugural Office of Military Commissions, Office of the Chief Prosecutor’s Award for Excellence.

Among her other noteworthy cases at Justice and the Military Commissions included:    

  • U.S. v. Al Nashiri – U.S.S. Cole attacks, U.S. Military Commissions
  • U.S. v. Zazi – where the defendant was involved in a 2009 plot to bomb the New York City Subway; one of the first disruptions of a home grown plot in the country
  • U.S. v. Khalifi – obtained guilty plea from Moroccan national who attempted to bomb the United States Capitol
  • U.S. v. Kodirov – charged and negotiated guilty plea for defendant involved in a domestic plot to assassinate the President of the United States
  • Deputy Chief Prosecutor for Litigation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, principal architect of the 9/11 attacks.

Ms. Sullivan also worked with British authorities interviewing the second shoe-bomber, a British national who, unlike Richard Reid, was arrested before boarding a plane.  Ms. Sullivan successfully developed a cooperative relationship with the defendant, has testified in five federal terrorism cases to date, all of which resulted in convictions. 

As part of her position, Ms. Sullivan has maintained the highest level of TS/SCI security clearance level for the past 12 years. At DOJ she also litigated as a Senior Attorney before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, where she gained deep familiarity with the government’s intelligence collecting surveillance procedures with which commercial service providers are required to comply. Prior to her tenure at Justice, Ms. Sullivan was a commercial litigator at two prominent Washington, DC law firms.

“It is rare to have the opportunity to bring aboard an attorney like Courtney, who has handled the toughest and most dangerous criminal enforcement cases imaginable,” said Douglas Baldridge, who chairs Venable’s Washington Litigation Practice.

“Courtney has won the praise of her peers and trust of the highest reaches of government in taking on complex terrorism prosecutions, and gaining a complete understanding of the national security operation. She also brings a strong record as a commercial litigator prior to her government service. Her combination of skills and experience is extremely rare – we know she’ll be a great addition to our trial practice in both civil and criminal cases,” Mr. Baldridge added.

At Venable, Ms. Sullivan joins a number of other former senior government prosecutors and counter-terror officials, including retired Rear Admiral James Barnett, Jr. who served as the former Chief of Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau for the Federal Communications Commission and former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti, Venable’s retired chair.

Venable’s national litigation team has been recognized by Chambers USA; U.S. News-Best Lawyers "Best Law Firms, and Benchmark Litigation and includes nearly 200 trial attorneys and 11 members of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers.

“I’m highly impressed with Venable’s long history of bringing on attorneys with deep government service backgrounds,” Ms. Sullivan said.  “The firm’s strong national litigation platform, its bench of former prosecutors and its track record in handling major criminal and civil matters were all major attractions for me.  Venable also has developed a serious practice in cybersecurity, where I expect to contribute.  I’m excited by the opportunity the firm offers as I step out of the prosecutor’s role and return to private practice.”

Ms. Sullivan received her J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School and her B.A. from the University of Notre Dame.


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