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Federal judge refuses to dismiss torture lawsuit against Bush administration lawyer

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] ruled Friday that a torture lawsuit against former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo [academic profile; JURIST news archive] can proceed. Judge Jeffrey White refused to dismiss [San Francisco Chronicle report] a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] brought by convicted terrorist Jose Padilla [JURIST news archive] that claims Yoo's legal opinions endorsing enhanced interrogation techniques [JURIST news archive] led to Padilla being tortured. Friday's ruling was the first time a judge has allowed a lawsuit to proceed against a government lawyer for his opinion in the interrogation memos [JURIST report].

Yoo, a professor at the Berkeley School of Law [academic website] has faced sharp criticism for his role in drafting the memos. Last month, a number of organizations called for the drafters of the memos to be disbarred [JURIST report]. Also in May, former JFK speechwriter Ted Sorensen told [JURIST report] an audience at the University of Nebraska College of Law [academic website] that the lawyers from the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] who had authorized the use of enhanced interrogation techniques had "disgraced not only their country but their profession." In April, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official profile; JURIST news archive], Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] renewed his call [JURIST report] for the formation of a non-partisan "truth commission" to investigate torture allegations. Also last month, UN special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak [official profile, DOC] insisted that under international law the US must prosecute [JURIST report] DOJ lawyers who drafted the memos. President Barack Obama has said that he would not rule out the possibility of prosecuting [transcript; JURIST report] lawyers who authored the memos. Padilla is currently serving a seventeen-year sentence [JURIST report] in a Colorado "supermax" prison [JURIST report] on a variety of terror-related charges.

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