Legal Ethics

Liberal Group Files Ethics Complaints Against Three Ex-AGs

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A coalition of left-leaning advocacy groups has filed ethics complaints against three former attorneys general and nine other Bush administration lawyers for advocating the use of harsh interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects.

The coalition calling itself the Velvet Revolution says the lawyers violated ethics rules by advocating methods that amounted to illegal torture, according to the New York Times, the Associated Press and The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times. The coalition says the lawyers should be disbarred.

The former attorneys general targeted by the group are John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey, the stories say. Complaints were filed with bar associations in the District of Columbia and the states of New York, California, Texas and Pennsylvania.

Others named in the complaints include Justice Department lawyers John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Stephen Bradbury, all of whom wrote or approved controversial legal memos sanctioning harsh interrogation techniques while working in the Office of Legal Counsel, and two former chiefs of the department’s criminal division, Alice Fisher and Michael Chertoff, who was also secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Also targeted are former Pentagon lawyers William Haynes and Douglas Feith, former deputy White House counsel Timothy Flanigan, and former vice presidential chief of staff David Addington.

The AP and Times stories say the complaints may face some hurdles. A prior Washington Post story said state bars do not have subpoena power to obtain sensitive Justice Department documents or testimony from witnesses who worked there. The Post story also cited questions about whether there is a clear ethics violation under professional conduct rules.

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