If you thought that you wouldn't have to hear about U.C. Berkeley tenured law professor John Yoo for at least a little while, Yoo were mistaken.
Judge Jeffrey S. White of the Northern District did not dismiss a civil suit brought by convicted terrorist Jose Padilla against Yoo for Yoo's role in the writing of memos that authorized the use of "enhanced interrogation methods", also known as "torture."
Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was arrested in 2002 for an alleged "dirty bomb" plot only to have the charges dropped three years later, and was jailed in January 2008 for separate charges of providing support to the Al-Qaeda terror network. He is now serving a 17-year prison sentence for terrorist activities, according to AFP.
White's ruling means that Yoo, who is being represented by the Justice Department, may finally have to answer for legal opinions that, according to the New York Times, subjected Padilla to “gross physical and psychological abuse at the hands of federal officials as part off a systematic program of abusive interrogation intended to break down Mr. Padilla’s humanity and his will to live.”
As interesting as this latest development may be, what's even more stunning is what White, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote in his 42-page ruling.
According to the NY Times, White characterized the conflict over the memos as one that embodies the tension “between the requirements of war and the defense of the very freedoms that war seeks to protect.” White also said that "like any other government official, government lawyers are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their conduct," the Associated Press stated.
Whoa. To date, I'd have to say that's the boldest step anyone, at least in the U.S., has taken to hold a Bush official accountable for wartime conduct.
But while some see the development as a step toward justice, others believe that a win for Padilla could lead to unforeseeable and possibly unfavorable consequences.
The NY Times wrote:
"The decision ... might seem like little more than the removal of a procedural roadblock. But lawyers for the man suing Mr. Yoo, Jose Padilla, say it provides substantive interpretation of constitutional issues for all detainees and could have a broad impact."
San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders writes:
"This sort of lawsuit could have a chilling effect on government lawyers. And not just with Republican administrations. The United States is at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. If Padilla can ruin Yoo, then what is to keep future detainees from going after Obama lawyers?"
Saunders, in her column, also interviewed Chapman University School of Law dean John Eastman, who stated that if Padilla wins, "everybody in prison can sue the lawyers who gave advice to the sheriff for making the arrest. ... (The) notion that someone is going to be held civilly liable for giving legal advice that other people didn't like is preposterous."
What does this mean for Yoo's teaching position at U.C. Berkeley? That's still unclear. Will Edley be able to stick to his academic freedom guns, despite compelling progression toward a consensus that Yoo did wrong? There's no question about it: you'll be hearing a lot more about Yoo in the near future.