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Bush administration lawyer appeals decision not to dismiss torture lawsuit

[JURIST] Former US Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel [official website] lawyer John Yoo [academic profile; JURIST news archive] Monday declared his intent to appeal a lower court ruling [JURIST report] allowing a lawsuit against him alleging complicity in torture to proceed. Yoo is appealing a June decision by District Judge Jeffrey White not to dismiss [San Francisco Chronicle report] a lawsuit 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. Padilla, a US citizen currently serving a 17-year sentence [JURIST report] on terrorism-related charges, says that he was tortured while held as an "enemy combatant" [JURIST news archive] in military custody in a Navy military brig in Charleston, South Carolina. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] said that it would pay for private counsel [Bloomberg report] to handle Yoo's appeal, because the government's defense had been based solely on qualified immunity and Yoo deserves counsel who will make all available arguments. A DOJ spokesperson said that paying for outside counsel is standard practice in cases where there is a potential legal disagreement between the DOJ and a defendant sued in an official capacity.

Yoo, a professor at the Berkeley School of Law [academic website] has faced sharp criticism for his role in drafting interrogation memos [JURIST report]. Last week, it was reported that US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] is still considering appointing a special prosecutor [JURIST report] to investigate allegations of torture during the Bush administration. In May, 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 DOJ lawyers 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 website], 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 in April, 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. US President Barack Obama has said that he would not rule out the possibility of prosecuting [transcript; JURIST report] lawyers who authored the memos.

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