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Judge Allows Lawsuit Claiming John Yoo’s Legal Memos Led to Torture

Posted Jun 15, 2009 7:03 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit claiming legal memos written by former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo led to the torture of a convicted terrorist.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco allowed most of the claims against Yoo, saying even enemy combatants retain constitutional protections, Bloomberg News reports. “Like any other government official, government lawyers are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their conduct,” he wrote.

Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote the memos approving harsh interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects when he was deputy attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Yoo is being sued by Jose Padilla, held for three years as an enemy combatant before being prosecuted and convicted for plotting terrorist acts. Padilla and his mother are seeking $1 in damages and a declaration that his treatment was unconstitutional, the New York Times says. The ruling is the first to hold that a government lawyer may be liable for detainee abuse, the Associated Press reports.

One of Padilla’s lawyers, Tahlia Townsend, told the Times that White’s ruling is “a significant victory for American values, government accountability and our system of checks and balances.” She said the decision “announced that fundamental protections against abuse apply to all individuals detained by the government.”

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