Legal Ethics

Latham's Work Defending 9th Circuit Judge on 'Torture Memo' Allegations Valued at $3.2M


Latham & Watkins has performed $3.2 million in free legal work for a federal appeals judge, according to his financial disclosure forms.

Appellate litigator Maureen Mahoney of Latham took on the defense of Jay Bybee as the U.S. Justice Department considered ethics allegations stemming from his work on so-called “torture memos” approving waterboarding of terrorism suspects, the National Law Journal reports. Bybee is now a judge on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Since Latham took on the work, Bybee has disqualified himself from cases involving Latham lawyers, the story says. He will likely continue to recuse himself “for some time,” Mahoney told the legal publication.

The legal work, done between 2007 and 2010, helped Bybee successfully fight allegations of ethical impropriety. Last year, the U.S. Justice Department decided not to sanction Bybee and John Yoo, who is now a law professor, for their work on the memos. The department also declined to refer the former Justice Department officials to state bars for possible discipline.

Bybee, 57, did not respond to the National Law Journal’s request for comment. He likely needed the pro bono help. According to disclosures during the 2003 judicial confirmation process, his household net worth was $457,000.

Indiana University Maurer law professor Charles Geyh praised Bybee for providing a financial figure on his disclosure forms. “Bybee is trying to do the right thing here, it sounds like, by coming up with a figure,” he told the NLJ.

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