Thu 3 May, 2012 11:05 am
May. 03, 2012
Berkeley law professor John Yoo cannot be sued over Bush-era memos
Howard Mintz | McClatchy-Tribune News Service
SAN JOSE, Calif.
University of California, Berkeley, law professor John Yoo cannot be sued by a convicted terrorist for helping to craft the Bush administration's interrogation and detention policies in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.
In a unanimous three-judge decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals barred Jose Padilla's lawsuit against Yoo that claimed the law professor should be held responsible for his torture while held in military detention.
The decision overturned San Francisco U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, who allowed the case to proceed.
The 9th Circuit found that Padilla was not entitled to the same constitutional protections as an ordinary prisoner at the time of his confinement because he was a "suspected terrorist designated an enemy combatant." Padilla is serving a 17-year prison sentence on terrorism-related charges.
In addition, the appeals court concluded that it was "not clearly established in 2001-2003" that Padilla's alleged mistreatment amounted to torture.
Padilla's lawsuit stems from the release several years ago of 2001 and 2002 memos drafted by Yoo that advised the military it could use "any means necessary" to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects.
Yoo's memos to top White House officials, written while he served as a top administration lawyer, suggested that enemy combatants could be tortured up to a certain point in the name of the war on terror.
Justice Department lawyers have argued that a government official such as Yoo should be immune to lawsuits over wartime decisions.
Howard Mintz writes for the San Jose Mercury News.