Kevin Allen | April 17, 2017
Last year, a headline in The Wall Street Journal called Thomas Durkin, ’68 A.B., “a terror suspect’s best hope in court.”
Durkin, a Chicago-based criminal defense attorney, spoke Monday at Notre Dame Law School about his career representing white supremacists, terrorists, and other persona non-grata.
Durkin said people often ask him how he became the go-to lawyer for terrorism cases.
“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,” he quipped. “The fact of the matter is there are not a lot of people who are willing to do this kind of work.”
Durkin’s work on terrorism-related cases began in December 2001 when, as he tells it, he simply answered his telephone and said “yes.” The call was from a lawyer in the Washington, D.C., area who wanted Durkin to join a case in which the U.S. Treasury Department had seized the assets of several Islamic charities, including Global Relief Foundation from suburban Chicago. The lawyers were challenging the constitutionality of the seizure.
Durkin knew about civil-forfeiture proceedings from drug prosecutions, so he agreed to join the Global Relief Foundation case.
Since then, he has represented defendants in notable cases such as Adel Daoud, who was charged with attempting to detonate a car bomb in Chicago’s downtown Loop, and the NATO Three – three men who faced terror charges but ended up being convicted of mob action and arson for building Molotov cocktails in the days leading up to the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago.