For Jonathan Turley, the legal scholar selected as Republicans’ lone expert to testify in the House impeachment proceedings Wednesday, being under the public spotlight is anything but alien.
Turley is a well-known legal expert from George Washington University Law School often cited in news articles who routinely makes the rounds on cable news networks as a legal analyst and pundit.
But decades before he stepped onto the national stage for Wednesday’s impeachment hearing, Turley was making waves in Nevada as the attorney representing former Area 51 employees who alleged that they were exposed to harmful and toxic materials while working at the top-secret military installation in the Nevada desert.
In that case, which was brought in 1994 and spanned a decade, Turley represented former workers from the site and two widows whose spouses’ deaths, Turley claimed, were caused in part by their exposure to fumes from the burning of stealth coatings at the installation facility near the Groom Lake salt flats.
“If American people knew what is stored at Area 51, they would be outraged,” Turley said following a 1997 appeals hearing in San Francisco. “It has nothing to do with national security.”
In 1998, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled that Turley’s clients were not entitled to learn what hazardous materials were used at Groom Lake or how they were disposed, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal in that case.
More recently, Turley was the lead attorney in another high profile lawsuit with Nevada ties when he represented Kody Brown and his four wives in an appeal of a federal court’s ruling blocking their efforts to decriminalize polygamy in Utah.
The family, famous for the reality TV show “Sister Wives,” moved to Las Vegas from Utah in 2011 for fear of prosecution. In 2013, a ruling from a lower court judge in Utah removed the threat for arrest for polygamy in the state. But an appeals court overturned that decision in 2016, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear arguments in the case the following year.