Legal Ethics

Lawyers Turn to 9th Circuit with Pleas to Hold Yoo Accountable


Recent news reports have indicated that the Justice Department has softened its stance on John Yoo for his role in drafting memos advising the Bush administration on its treatment of terror suspects.

The reports could mean that Yoo won’t face any disciplinary troubles for the advice he gave during his tenure—from 2001 to 2003—with the Office of Legal Counsel.

But a group of well-known lawyers and law professors aren’t prepared to let complaints about Yoo drop, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

They have filed arguments in the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that oppose dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Jose Padilla, held for three years as an enemy combatant before being prosecuted and convicted for plotting terrorist acts. In his suit, Padilla accuses Yoo of providing a legal cover for torture.

Those filing include Erwin Chemerinsky, law school dean at the University of California at Irvine; Alan Morrison, an assistant law dean at George Washington University; Norman Dorsen of New York University; Deborah Rhode of Stanford; and Bruce Fein, who served in the Office of Legal Counsel during the Reagan administration.

At issue, they argue is “the integrity of the legal profession and the sanctity of the rule of law.”

Yoo, however, has consistently responded that his legal advice was given in good faith and he has denied authorizing torture.

The Chronicle quotes from Yoo, who appeared in late January on Tavis Smiley’s show on PBS.

“What we were trying to do,” Yoo said, “was provide our intelligence agencies with guidance about what they can do to interrogate al-Qaida leaders … but not just restrict them to giving them a lawyer, and their Miranda warnings, but not to violate any federal laws prohibiting torture either.”

Related coverage:

Wall Street Journal Law Blog: “Prominent Lawyers Aiming to Keep John Yoo in the News a Bit Longer”

ABAJournal.com: “Should Yoo Be Punished for Memos? Experts Disagree, DOJ Opposes Liability”

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