Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Don't let the lawyer who wrote memos approving torture become a federal judge

By Nancy Jane Moore

The Senate Judiciary Committee is currently debating the nomination of William J. Haynes II to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Haynes was general counsel to the Defense Department and signed off on the legality of some forms of "harsh interrogation" -- i.e., torture.

Clearly this man should not be made a federal appeals court judge. The Democrats are making noises about opposing him -- Senator Edward Kennedy has made strong statements and even Minority Leader Harry Reid is criticizing Haynes.

Given the way the Democrats have caved in when they should have filibustered on judicial nominees, I'm not holding out a lot of hope for them. Fortunately, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is a lawyer in the Air Force reserves, is also raising objections to the nominee, according to a report in today's Washington Post.

We've already got one pro-torture judge on the federal appeals bench -- Judge Jay S. Bybee, now on the Ninth Circuit, was the Justice Department lawyer who signed off on the infamous torture memo that came up during Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's confirmation hearings. John Dean -- a man who knows quite a lot about misconduct in the executive branch of government -- summarizes that memo in an article on Findlaw:
The memo defines torture so narrowly that only activities resulting in "death, organ failure or the permanent impairment of a significant body function" qualify.
Bybee should never have been confirmed, but unfortunately the memo didn't surface until after he was approved.

It's absurd that the Senate is even debating whether or not someone who approved torture is qualified to serve as a judge. Of course he isn't. Yes, I know that lawyers are supposed to do what their clients request -- I'm a lawyer -- but lawyers are also officers of the court and supposed to uphold the Constitution. That duty trumps all others. Any lawyer who can find approval for torture under our legal system is tearing the Constitution to shreds.

For the sake of the soul of our country we can't put any more pro-torture Bush appointees on the federal bench.

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