Re "Judging John Yoo," Editorial, July 2
Reading your editorial about the lawsuit filed against John Yoo reminded me of a wonderful speech given by Sen. Sam Ervin at the American Bar Assn. Convention in Honolulu, Hawaii, in the summer of 1973, following the Watergate hearings.
He stated that when a lawyer is requested to give his opinion on a legal issue, two questions must be asked:
Is the proposed action legal? And is it the right thing to do?
Professor Yoo miserably failed both questions in his "torture memo."
Michael P. Newman
"Judging John Yoo" argues that Yoo should not be held accountable for the actions of others who relied on his legal advice.
On the contrary, there is ample legal precedent for holding him accountable. Mafia lawyers who use their legal expertise to advise clients how to break the law are often prosecuted. And if that is not convincing, remember that the United States tried, convicted and executed Hans Frank (Hitler's personal lawyer) because his legal advice was used to set policy, which resulted in crimes against humanity.
Despite the fact that The Times acknowledges that Jose Padilla's allegations against Yoo "deserve to be explored in a lawsuit" and that Yoo may well have exceeded his role as a lawyer in writing the notorious "torture memo," your paper argues that Yoo should not be held accountable in a civil lawsuit because of legal opinions he produced.
But holding government lawyers responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their conduct is hardly unusual. Surely it was foreseeable that Yoo's "torture memo" would lead to torture, and he should be held liable for the severe damage he caused to Padilla, many other detainees and the reputation of our entire nation.
Stephen F. Rohde
I found this editorial to be a breath of fresh air with regard to the controversies swirling around Yoo.
You make several good points concerning the foolishness of U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White ruling that Yoo could be liable to Padilla on the basis of allegations that Yoo took part in the preparation of a legal opinion that then led to Padilla's designation as an enemy combatant, which also led to Padilla being treated harshly while in custody.
There are several other errors that White made in his handling of this case, but your basic point of not holding an attorney liable for the ultimate events following the use by others of his or her opinion is very much worth making.
By the way, Yoo is a scholar and teacher of constitutional law at a top law school, with a distinguished record of public service.