Ken Starr Endorses Harold Koh

by Roger Alford

My boss, Dean Ken Starr, has just published this letter expressing warm and hearty support for Harold Koh’s nomination to be the State Department Legal Advisor. Here is an excerpt:

Harold’s background is, of course, the very essence of the American dream. That great story needs no repetition. What I can speak to more personally is Harold Koh the passiionate, idealistic litigator serving on behalf of causes in which he fervently believes. Harold embraces, deeply, a vision of the goodness of America, and the ideals of a nation, ruled, abindgingly, by law.


Harold Koh, in short, is not only a great lawyer, but a truly great man of irreproachable integrity. And thus the President … should be deemed entitled to have this upright, highly qualified individual serving at the State Department in the pivotal role of Legal Advisor. Elections have consequences. In my view, one consequence is that, in shaping the contours of the Executive Branch, the President enjoys a strong presumption that his choice be honored….

What an academic writes or says as an academic is one thing. But quite another is the solemn taking of the oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. That life-changing event carries with it an abiding responsibility to be faithful to the law as it is–not as one might, as an academic, wish it to be.

For what it is worth, Harold Koh and I have also sparred in academic circles on the issue of the role of foreign and international law as an aid in interpreting the Constitution. I am much more reluctant to embrace the position he takes on that issue, and I have written in detail expressing my strong reservations. But that does not change my view that he is extremely well-qualified to serve as the State Department Legal Advisor and that he should and will be confirmed.

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