Group Seeks Disbarment of 12 Bush Lawyers Over Torture Policies

Via Raw Story, a liberal activist group has filed complaints with the state bars in the District of Columbia, New York, California, Texas and Pennsylvania, seeking disbarment of 12 lawyers who served in Bush Administration and were involved in defending torture policies. The lawyers are:

[F]ormer White House Legal Counsel attorneys John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Stephen Bradbury; former Attorney Generals Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft and Michael Mukasey; former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff; former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney David Addington, Alice Fisher, William Haynes II, Douglas Feith and Timothy Flanigan

The complaints are available at DisbarTortureLawyers.

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    Where there's a will...! (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by oldpro on Mon May 18, 2009 at 12:31:58 PM EST
    Even if this tactic is not successful, it will keep the spotlight on torture and on those who think they got away with it.  We shall see.

    Seems to me this (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Inspector Gadget on Mon May 18, 2009 at 03:20:01 PM EST
    tug 'o war going on about torture makes the country look mighty foolish. How hard can it be to stand firm against something as wrong as torture? We make it look like we just can't make up our minds.

    Well...the same could be said (none / 0) (#10)
    by oldpro on Mon May 18, 2009 at 03:53:45 PM EST
    about war, couldn't it?  Or any number of things that the electorate is split on...

    Certainly could be, and actually are (none / 0) (#23)
    by Inspector Gadget on Mon May 18, 2009 at 05:39:15 PM EST
    Those many other topics we look so silly on just weren't the subject of this post.

    Personally, I think we set the tone for being viewed as strange during those years when such a high priority was set on the meaning of "is".


    Oh, dear. Sigh.... (none / 0) (#28)
    by oldpro on Mon May 18, 2009 at 08:35:35 PM EST
    I wonder how Jack Goldsmith escaped (none / 0) (#2)
    by seesdifferent on Mon May 18, 2009 at 12:54:47 PM EST
    I guess he gathered enough sympathy with his book. But he is Mr. Rendition. That memo could not be more unethical, imo.

    This is torture (none / 0) (#3)
    by joze46 on Mon May 18, 2009 at 02:24:59 PM EST
    We are a nation of cowards

    The critical issue, that this is torture, with premeditated thought to compose language to make it legal, has parallels to every controversial piece of legislation that came out of the Bush administration, as Legislation was controlled by the Republicans in the Congress, and Senate for many years. Newt Gingrich is the fat cat and one of leaders of all this mess.

    Here, the contracts with America can be tied to a whole a volume of legislation once totally controlled by the Republicans. Something monumentally embarrassing that would likely lead to controversy for generations. Just as that wall Reagan wanted torn down likely was paid for by American tax dollars via secret Treasury, and Federal Reserve funding. One good reason no one wants to audit the Federal Reserve loaded with an ugly deception worse likely financing in tandem with the CIA lies. A hard and bitter pill to take but its chocking America right now.      

    The Republicans know this would destroy the party, and try to get the democrats as complicit, which is exactly the very reason a huge mantra of rant raving rallying in cable and hate radio are persistent to spin the story Pelosi is a core liar in the process that involves being briefed by the CIA. Or the CIA is not representing the full truth to many issues during the Bush administration. Hell, the CIA and the Federal Reserve were Bush and Companies secret police and secret piggy bank...And so was an individuals as Colin Powell, or worse the joint chiefs of our armed forces.  

    Where is Obama and his Attorney General on this issue? Likely right behind this public movement, which we all should admire the effort in motivation to address these criminals' lawyers. Don't forget Bush himself.  

    They all should be disbarred and censured from making money off the public as it making speeches. All money made from speeches should go to an Iraqi veterans fund not their personal accounts. Watch Bush "support our troop's" president stay home because he will know he gets none of that money.

    The only way to destroy this culture of terror is to diminish the Republicans who started this mess. Bush and Company must be brought to justice.    

    "Bush and Company . . . (none / 0) (#12)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon May 18, 2009 at 03:56:29 PM EST
    . . . must be brought to justice"

    DAVIS: The Cheney dare

    By Lanny Davis

    I have written many times in this space that I oppose any criminal prosecution of prior-administration officials on torture or other issues relating to the Iraq War and the war on terrorism, especially those CIA interrogators who relied in good faith on the instructions of policymakers and the legal opinions issued by Justice Department senior officials.

    I am hoping that in the final analysis, the case of the People vs. Dick Cheney will provide all Americans with an opportunity to answer the vital question as to whether a democratic society based on moral values should defend the use of torture, even if at times it successfully obtains important information from a terrorist.

    I have agreed with President Obama on the need to look forward, not backward.

    But ... I have changed my mind about the need to indict former Vice President Dick Cheney for complicity in illegal torture.


    We must prosecute them all (none / 0) (#17)
    by NMvoiceofreason on Mon May 18, 2009 at 04:09:07 PM EST
    and just like in a drug conspiracy, give immunity to those who testify against those who gave them the orders. Get the sworn statement on the record, then you can get off the hook, not before. And remember that for war crimes, no US court can grant international immunity. War criminals are war criminals, after all.

    Laughable (none / 0) (#18)
    by Slado on Mon May 18, 2009 at 04:53:02 PM EST
    What about all the missle strikes continuing in Pakistan by the chosen one?

    Why would we waste the term "war criminal" on captured terrorists when the current adminstration is blowing up innoncent civilians while going after the terrorists they can't capture?

    I believe in both practices but logically how could one use the term "war crimes" when compared to what this administration has continued and now escalated in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

    Answer: because this whole torture debate is laughable.


    Glad someone thinks it's funny (none / 0) (#20)
    by CST on Mon May 18, 2009 at 05:06:06 PM EST
    Personally - I think it's disgusting that there is even a torture "debate".

    re: This is torture (none / 0) (#31)
    by JDEUNO on Tue May 19, 2009 at 05:53:20 PM EST
    Well said joze46

    I wonder if the various panels ruling on this (none / 0) (#4)
    by DFLer on Mon May 18, 2009 at 02:57:56 PM EST
    will show any empathy to those lawyers?

    Of course they will (none / 0) (#6)
    by NMvoiceofreason on Mon May 18, 2009 at 03:27:37 PM EST
    The complaint is little more than a bad review, similar to a "I don't like your memoranda" rant, turning the whole issue into a he said / she said squabble.

    I think there is a better, more direct way.

    First, each of these lawyers is a partner in a conspiracy to torture people (the entry into of which would vitiate any excuse written later), and people have been convicted for participating in the conspiracy (the soldiers at Abu Ghraib). Armed Services report ties them together, plan at the top, acts at the bottom. Second, the lawyers conspired to defraud the courts, seeking to deny justice, or the ability to punish members of the conspiracy.

    Being a member in an active criminal conspiracy and a member of the bar are incompatible avocations.


    No (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by jbindc on Mon May 18, 2009 at 03:43:36 PM EST
    That would set a HUGELY bad precedent - lawyers would now be subject to criminal conspiracy indictments for rendering legal opinions?

    Then I guess we should hold criminal defense attorneys as conspirators to their clients' crimes?  Or at least accomplices after the fact?  

    Seems like a dangerously slippery slope to me.


    Hugely good precedent (none / 0) (#9)
    by NMvoiceofreason on Mon May 18, 2009 at 03:52:29 PM EST
    that you can't conspire to eviscerate the Constitution, treaties, and laws of the United States by the use of secret memoranda.

    I don't remember who said it, but this whole OLC scenario may well be remembered as the time when lawyers "knew sin". (May have been John Dean)


    If you read (none / 0) (#8)
    by eric on Mon May 18, 2009 at 03:51:19 PM EST
    through the complaints you will see that they do indeed allege violation of US law regarding torture, 18 USC 2340A which includes sub (c) Conspiracy.  It isn't just a complaint about the memos.

    In Florida (none / 0) (#11)
    by NMvoiceofreason on Mon May 18, 2009 at 03:53:52 PM EST
    many attys get ripped to shreds for joining in criminal conspiracies with their clients. Should be no different here. Rico... Ricp... where are you?

    You don't have (none / 0) (#13)
    by eric on Mon May 18, 2009 at 03:57:33 PM EST
    to argue with me.  I certainly believe that lawyers can and should be charged if they enter into criminal conspiracies.

    Not arguing (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by NMvoiceofreason on Mon May 18, 2009 at 04:02:21 PM EST

    Especially for others that might not have our training.

    Thanks, Eric.


    I repeat (none / 0) (#19)
    by jbindc on Mon May 18, 2009 at 04:58:49 PM EST
    Let's go after criminal defense attorneys then too.

    Can you not see the difference? (none / 0) (#21)
    by NMvoiceofreason on Mon May 18, 2009 at 05:08:43 PM EST
    An argument made in court as an advocate to give the full measure of zealous advocacy, versus implementing a criminal conspiracy by secret memoranda?

    I repeat, defense lawyers who join in the conspiracy of their clients to violate the law are routinely prosecuted (in florida and elsewhere).

    A crime is still a crime, even when committed by an attorney.


    When a defense attorney (none / 0) (#30)
    by jbindc on Tue May 19, 2009 at 08:23:28 AM EST
    who knows their client is guilty of the crime(s) he/she is charged with, stands up in court and says "My client is innocent" - isn't that lying to the court? (I realize many attorneys don't ask their clients or have their clients confess to them, so they technically don't know).

    Yes,I see a difference - I went to law school too - but I'm saying it's a slippery slope.  Go after these lawyers with bar proceedings, but to go after lawyers criminally for rendering legal opinions will certainly have a chilling effect.

    Since other people on this site are being very forgiving towards people like Nancy Pelosi ("She wasn't in charge - why cloud the issue?"  "Go after Bush and Cheney", "The is just noise by FOX News") even though she was complicit (and in a position to do something about it), then shouldn't we then have the same attitude towards these lawyers?  They wrote legal opinions.  You can argue with their analysis, you can argue they tried to obfuscate the law, whatever - but they did not order Blackwater or our troops to commit torture.  If you aren't going to go after members of Congress who had this information and stayed silent, then you can't go after lawyers who wrote briefs.

    If so, then you need to go back through all WH lawyers (including the ones in there now) and read all their memos and see if every single one comports with all laws.


    I read it quickly (none / 0) (#14)
    by NMvoiceofreason on Mon May 18, 2009 at 04:00:51 PM EST
    so I may have missed that, but even so, they fall into the trap of "Does US v. Lee, 744 F.2d 1124 (5th 1984) set the precedent that SERE derived waterboarding is torture...?" etc. It becomes an argument about the merit of the argument, not that the whole foundation was illegal to begin with. Good, bad, indifferent - however you want to classify Yoo, Addington, and Bybee's work, it was a conspiracy to defraud the courts and a conspiracy to commit torture. You can't get legal arguments out of illegal acts.

    I didn't say (none / 0) (#16)
    by eric on Mon May 18, 2009 at 04:02:40 PM EST
    you could.  I am on your side.  What they did was criminal.

    Announcing the filing publicly, (none / 0) (#29)
    by Peter G on Mon May 18, 2009 at 08:48:44 PM EST
    at least in Pennsylvania (as to Yoo, in other words), was a violation of the PA Rules of [Attorney] Disciplinary Enforcement, Rule 209(a), 402(c) (confidentiality), which is itself a disciplinary violation by any Pennsylvania lawyer who participated in publicizing the complaint. RDE 203(b)(3).  In addition, Rule 85.10 of the Rules of the PA Disciplinary Board states that the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, with only seemingly inapplicable exceptions, will not entertain any complaint about misconduct occurring more than four years prior to the filing of the complaint.  From all this I conclude that the complaint, even though I agree with the substance of it, is grandstanding.  

    David Luban, who writes for (none / 0) (#22)
    by Anne on Mon May 18, 2009 at 05:31:42 PM EST
    Balkinization, testified before the Senate subcommittee chaired by Sheldon Whitehouse, and his opening statement is a concise explanation of what was wrong with the OLC opinions.

    An excerpt:

    When a lawyer advises a client about what the law requires, there is one basic ethical obligation: to tell it straight, without slanting or skewing. That can be a hard thing to do, if the legal answer isn't the one the client wants. Very few lawyers ever enjoy saying "no" to a client who was hoping for "yes". But the profession's ethical standard is clear: a legal adviser must use independent judgment and give candid, unvarnished advice. In the words of the American Bar Association, "a lawyer should not be deterred from giving candid advice by the prospect that the advice will be unpalatable to the client." [1]

    That is the governing standard for all lawyers, in public practice or private. But it's doubly important for lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel. The mission of OLC is to give the President advice to guide him in fulfilling an awesome constitutional obligation: to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. Faithful execution means interpreting the law without stretching it and without looking for loopholes. OLC's job is not to rubber-stamp administration policies, and it is not to provide legal cover for illegal actions.

    No lawyer's advice should do that. The rules of professional ethics forbid lawyers from counseling or assisting clients in illegal conduct; [2] they require competence;[3] and they demand that lawyers explain enough that the client can make an informed decision, which surely means explaining the law as it is. [4] These are standards that the entire legal profession recognizes.

    Unfortunately, the torture memos fall far short of professional standards of candid advice and independent judgment. They involve a selective and in places deeply eccentric reading of the law. The memos cherry-pick sources of law that back their conclusions, and leave out sources of law that do not. They read as if they were reverse engineered to reach a pre-determined outcome: approval of waterboarding and the other CIA techniques.

    My written statement goes through the memos in detail, Mr. Chairman. Let me give just one example here of what I am talking about. Twenty-six years ago, President Reagan's Justice Department prosecuted law enforcement officers for waterboarding prisoners to make them confess. The case is called United States v. Lee. [5] Four men were convicted and drew hefty sentences that the Court of Appeals upheld. [6]

    The Court of Appeals repeatedly referred to the technique as "torture." This is perhaps the single most relevant case in American law to the legality of waterboarding. [7] Any lawyer can find the Lee case in a few seconds on a computer just by typing the words "water torture" into a database. But the authors of the torture memos never mentioned it. They had no trouble finding cases where courts didn't call harsh interrogation techniques "torture."[8] It's hard to avoid the conclusion that Mr. Yoo, Judge Bybee, and Mr. Bradbury chose not to mention the Lee case because it casts doubt on their conclusion that waterboarding is legal.[9]

    We really need to know the whole story.

    Thank you, Anne (none / 0) (#24)
    by NMvoiceofreason on Mon May 18, 2009 at 05:47:46 PM EST
    Perhaps the best summary I've read on this topic!

    Shameful it has taken until now... (none / 0) (#25)
    by jerry on Mon May 18, 2009 at 06:00:10 PM EST
    How many on the left, how many who decry torture are lawyers?

    It speaks terribly of lawyers that it has taken until now for this action.

    This will create some interesting (none / 0) (#26)
    by Joelarama on Mon May 18, 2009 at 06:23:22 PM EST
    precedent -- should have some bearing on white collar lawyers.

    on "cherry-picking" (none / 0) (#27)
    by diogenes on Mon May 18, 2009 at 06:53:33 PM EST
    Supreme Court justices will cherry-pick arguments to come to profoundly opposite positions on issues of life and death (such as abortion or the death penalty).  Both sides cannot be right on such issues; does that mean that one side is slanting the presentation to support its preconceived view and deserves to be disbarred?