Nick Schou blogged last week about a San Francisco federal judge having ruled that John Yoo, the UC Berkeley law professor who just finished a stint as a visiting professor at Chapman Law School, can "be held personally responsible for the indefinite military detention and alleged torture of an American citizen who was suspected of involvement with Al Qaeda." The U.S. citizen in question, Jose Padilla, is the alleged "Dirty Bomber" who was arrested in Chicago on May 8, 2002 and charged with plotting to blow up buildings in that city.
Ady Barkan blogs today on Slate that this likely won't be the last time a federal judge takes up the case of a Bush-era terror suspect.
These cases are just beginning to address the fraught questions of justice that have emerged in the aftermath of the Bush era--what atrocities were committed in the name of national security, who bears responsibility, and how should they be punished? Although neither the Obama administration nor most members of Congress want to deal with these questions directly, they're even more opposed to letting judges (and juries) take a crack at them. Padilla v. Yoo is an example of a surprising development: a conservative judge putting pressure on the Democrats in Washington to create some system of accountability for the Bush administration. It could help spawn more such rulings.
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Incidentally, Judge Jeffrey White, who made the Padilla vs.Yoo finding and dismissed Yoo's attempts to dismiss the case, was appointed by George W. Bush the year Yoo was writing his torture memos.