Attorney General

Lawyer Tells 9th Circuit: Detainee’s Suit Against John Yoo Could ‘Open the Floodgate'

A lawyer arguing on behalf of John Yoo told an appellate panel on Monday that the former Justice Department official can’t be liable for his legal advice on national security.

Lawyer Miguel Estrada is defending Yoo in a torture lawsuit brought by former detainee Jose Padilla, held for three years as an enemy combatant before his conviction for supporting terrorism. Estrada told a panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowing the suit would “open the floodgates to politically motivated lawsuits,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, is accused of providing legal cover for torture with legal opinions authorizing harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects. A federal judge refused to dismiss Padilla’s suit last year.

One judge on the panel appeared to side with Yoo and another with Padilla, according to the San Francisco Chronicle and the Recorder. That could leave the deciding vote to Rebecca Pallmeyer, a Chicago trial judge sitting by designation who is a Clinton appointee.

Judge Raymond Fisher was most critical of Estrada’s arguments. At one point, he interrupted Estrada when he commented that Yoo was a midlevel lawyer at the Justice Department. “Wait a minute. Mr. Yoo has written a book where he describes himself as much more than a midlevel lawyer at DOJ,” Fisher said.

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