Professor John Yoo Could Face Disbarment


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Correction Appended

Lawyers who advised the Bush administration on interrogation techniques-including UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo-will likely not undergo criminal investigation, according to an internal U.S. Department of Justice inquiry that was leaked Wednesday.

The report by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility instead recommends the former Office of Legal Counsel lawyers have their legal licenses revoked.

Yoo, who authored memos supporting the legality of techniques such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation, may be disbarred if the State Bar of Pennsylvania acts on the report, said Stephen Rosenbaum, lecturer at Boalt Hall School of Law.

The report, which will be published this summer, may affect his Boalt tenure, according to Boalt spokesperson Susan Gluss. Yoo is currently on leave as a visiting professor at Chapman University School of Law in Orange, California.

"One can argue about the appropriateness of someone teaching in a law school who has expressed those interpretations of the law," Rosenbaum said.

In the memos, Yoo argued that interrogation techniques should match the suspected crimes of detainees.

"One may not use deadly force in response to a threat that does not rise to death or serious bodily harm," Yoo wrote to the Defense Department in March 2003. "If such harm may result, however, deadly force is appropriate."

Campus and UC officials will ultimately decide whether Yoo will stay on campus if he is disbarred, according to Christopher Kutz, a law professor and vice chair of the campus's Academic Senate.

Boalt Hall Dean Christopher Edley has consistently defended Yoo's tenure, citing First Amendment rights.

"The dean is always mindful of the interplay between academic freedom, which is the right to express an opinion no matter how vile or odious, and the need for law professors to abide by the highest ethical and professional standards," Gluss said.

She said Edley will review the report before offering his opinion on whether or not Yoo should lose his position at Boalt.

Boalt faculty do not have to be members of the bar, but being disbarred may cast doubt on Yoo's ability to teach law, said Kutz.

"I do not believe that the memos are professionally adequate statements about the law, nor did the Justice Department-they repudiated all the memos written by John Yoo," he said.

Stephanie Tang, an organizer for the anti-war group World Can't Wait, said Yoo's tenure is unethical.

"We think that the dean is wrong, that academic freedom does not protect the construction of the legal green light for the Bush administration to carry out torture," she said.


Correction: Monday, May 11, 2009
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the State Bar of California will review the U.S. Department of Justice report.
The earlier version also incorrectly attributed that information to Susan Gluss, Boalt Hall of Law spokesperson.
Furthermore, it misidentified Stephen Rosenbaum as a Boalt Hall School of Law professor.
The earlier version also stated that the Department of Justice report was released, when in fact it was leaked.
The version may have also implied that Boalt Hall Dean Christopher Edley will make the decision on whether or not John Yoo will maintain his position at Boalt should be disbarred.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Katie Meyer at [email protected]

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