While on Georgetown’s main campus earlier this month, former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez was served with a subpoena in the case of Claudia Balcero Giraldo v. Drummond. There has been a lot of misinformation floating around our community with respect to what the subpoena is, where it came from and how it was served. As a member of the Adios Uribe Coalition, I hope that the following account will help to clear the air.
First, the serving of a subpoena is a common and integral part of our judicial system. Subpoenas protect all parties’ right to a fair trial and help to ensure that a court will advance justice with all the relevant facts at hand. The subpoena served to President Uribe was authorized by a federal judge and requires Uribe’s attendance at a formal deposition where he will be asked to speak under oath about issues relevant to the Drummond case.
Nearly 500 family members of Colombian citizens murdered by paramilitary forces during the prolonged Colombian civil conflict brought the suit against Drummond Company, Inc., for its alleged role in supporting war crimes and funding the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a paramilitary organization. A federal court ruled that the claims against Drummond are viable and the case is now searching for more evidence, in a discovery phase. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Terry Collingsworth of Conrad & Scherer, LLP, believes that President Uribe has explicit knowledge of Drummond’s alleged relationship with the paramilitary organization as well as other information pertinent to the case. President Uribe’s testimony will likely be of great help in bringing to justice those involved in the murders and terrorist activities against Colombian citizens.
uch of the confusion in our community surrounds the way in which President Uribe was served. Charity Ryerson, a Georgetown law student and former intern at Conrad & Scherer, served the subpoena to President Uribe as he walked to his car after teaching a class. Ryerson notified President Uribe that she was serving him with a subpoena in the Drummond case and President Uribe refused to accept the documents. When serving a subpoena upon a non cooperating party, a standard method of service is to present the person with the subpoena and to drop it at the person’s feet when that person refuses to take it. After President Uribe’s refusal, Ryerson dropped the subpoena at his feet. At no point did Ryerson make physical contact with President Uribe or the security guards who were present.
There have been two misconstrued rumors circulating around campus. The first rumor is that serving a subpoena on Georgetown campus is a violation of campus rules or somehow an act of aggression. This is not true. University spokeswoman Julie Bataille confirms that “the university does not have a policy forbidding the service of process on its property, but does not, as a general matter, work with process servers to facilitate service.” Hours before serving the subpoena, Ryerson was told by Georgetown administrators that she could not serve the subpoena on campus. This was simply a matter of miscommunication and in the future, process servers will not be forbidden from fulfilling their lawful duties.
The second misinformed rumor is that some sort of physical abuse occurred when Ryerson served the subpoena. By law, a recipient of a subpoena can claim that the subpoena is invalid if an abuse took place during the service of it; the recipient does not have to provide testimony unless service is repeated. Drummond has publicly claimed that Ryerson improperly served the subpoena to President Uribe. I witnessed the interaction and can assure the whole Georgetown community that Ryerson did not make physical contact with President Uribe and that allegations to the contrary are simply false.
In order to ensure that our shared principles of transparency, freedom of speech, social justice and the rule of law are to continue to flourish, everyone weighing in on President Uribe’s presence on campus must do so publicly. This helps our entire community to avoid the spread of false information and rumors. Given the political context that surrounds President Uribe, I recognize that any subpoena served upon him will inevitably attract attention. However, I hope that our community will rest assured knowing that the sole purpose of a subpoena is to advance the cause of justice in claims of interest to the federal judicial system. To these ends, Georgetown’s Adios Uribe Coalition is more than happy to talk further with any member of the Georgetown community, and will continue to advance Georgetown’s commitment to social justice, freedom of speech and the rule of law.
Chris Byrnes is a student at the Georgetown University Law School and a member of the Adios Uribe Coalition
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