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Group wants courts to play ‘keep away’ from torture lawyers

By Sahil Kapur
Monday, February 22, 2010 9:22 EDT
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Critics are working to disbar Bush administration “torture architects” from practicing law in courts again, and if that doesn’t work they’re enlisting attorneys to move to disqualify them as judges.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee and fellow author of Bush administration torture memos John Yoo were last week found guilty of “professional midconduct” and “poor judgment” for ignoring established case law. They were nevertheless cleared of any criminal charges.

The Disbar Torture Lawyers campaign, which is part of a consortium that boasts over 120 transparency and watchdog groups, is now working to disbar Bybee and others complicit in advocating illegal interrogation methods.

“Judge Bybee can no longer pretend to be fair, impartial, or to exercise good judgment,” said attorney and campaign spokesperson Kevin Zeese in a statement. “He has been found to possess all the qualities that people do not want in a judge — bias, poor judgment, predetermination, failure to follow established law, and professional misconduct.”

DisbarTortureLawyers.com, a project of Velvet Revolution, states as its guiding principle, “Torture is illegal under both United States and international law” and prohibited as “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment.

The group has filed complaints to sanction Bybee and remove him from his judge post, backed with specific language from the Department of Justice’s Office of Personal Responsibility that details his wrongdoings.

“No plaintiff or defendant should be subjected to the authority of a judge who has been so thoroughly discredited,” said Zesse, who is also urging lawyers and their clients to move to disqualify Bybee.

“We call on every plaintiff and defendant whose case is assigned to Judge Bybee to demand that their lawyer file a motion to disqualify him, and if the lawyer refuses, to take action against the lawyer for failing to protect their interests and the integrity of the judicial process.”

Also targeted in the campaign are Bybee’s fellow torture memo author John Yoo and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The group intends to work with and support Congress in taking further steps to sanction these individuals and disbar those who are still working as judges.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has announced plans to hold House Judiciary Committee hearings on the Bush administration lawyers whose legal memos justified the use of torture on terrorism detainees.

Last year, John Podesta, a leader of President Obama’s transition team and former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, said Bybee should be impeached.

There “is a distinction between going back and prosecuting in the criminal courts the actors who were involved in these memos and letting Judge Bybee continue to sit on a court one step removed from the Supreme Court,” Podesta said. “He’s acting and listening to cases and making judgments of others, and we know that he authorized things that were illegal under U.S. law and violated the U.S. obligations under international treaties.”

Podesta heads the Center for American Progress Action, a liberal think tank.

 
 
 
 
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