‘Torture Judge’ Is Rewarded By President
Judge Jay S. Bybee’s Odd Views On Cruel & Inhuman Punishment Get Him a
Federal Appeals Court Judge Jay S. Bybee has a
strange definition for cruel and unusual punishment. Apparently, the good judge
thinks it’s normal to torture and inflict great bodily harm.
Usually, someone with such a radical opinion is
thrown off the bench. Usually, a judge like this is patted down to see if he’s
hiding a whiskey bottle.
But Bybee’s “tortuous views” sat well with
President George W. Bush. They sat so well with the president that in March
2003 Bybee was given a life-time six-figure post on the influential Ninth
Circuit Court of Appeals, the largest judicial circuit in the land serving
California among other states.
Bybee’s August 2002 memo, legally justifying
torture, drew only minor opposition. The 49 year old was approved in March 2003
by 74-19 margin in the Senate without very little meaningful debate, even
though heavily criticized by outside judicial watchdog groups.
Today, Bybee is back in the news, having
purportedly authored the now infamous memo that has plagued attorney general
nominee Alberto Gonzales during his Senate confirmation hearings.
Some of the strongest criticism of Bybee has come
from the lawyer who is representing several widows and family members of
victims of the Sept. 11 attacks in lawsuits against the government.
Attorney Phillip Berg’s pointed comments about
Bybee were included in a 237-page complaint, accusing President Bush of being
involved in a systematic neo-conservative takeover of the government by using
9-11 as the lynchpin to justify fear, terrorism, war and imperialism. The suit,
filed against Bush and 55 others, accuses them of violating the Racketeer
Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
The pre-trial pleadings in such a case allow for
an exhaustive presentation of facts, Berg using the opportunity to present a
massive neo-con conspiracy case allegedly taking place before, after and during
Berg notes that Bush appointed over 200 federal
judges since taking office, more than any other president and mostly all of
them in-line with the Bush administration’s ideology regarding federal power
and national security.
Berg said, like Bybee, most of the appointees
share Bush’s “slanted view of justice,” which by itself is “a very scary
In his lawsuit, he added: “Instead of being fired
or better yet disbarred, in the present political climate, [Bybee’s] views so
hostile to the Constitution have been rewarded with a lifetime position.
“That such men are allowed to now sit on the
federal bench suggests that the American judiciary is being debased by
President Bush,” said Berg.
In a case filed on behalf of WTC maintenance
worker William Rodriguez, Berg refers to a “despicable and reprehensible”
memorandum written for Bush when Bybee was working in Washington as an
assistant attorney general in 2002 after 9-11.
At a time when the administration was being
heavily criticized for torturing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bybee
crafted a creative legal argument justifying the harsh military tactics.
His memorandum gave Bush legal authority to order
torture and war crimes, despite international and domestic conventions which
forbid it universally.
Bybee’s legal creativity further went on to
justify the infliction of torture and other war crimes by military underlings,
so long as the torture was not life threatening and so long as it was not
administered specifically with that intent.
“The logic of Bybee’s memo is the logic of
totalitarianism,” said Berg. “That he was confirmed to such a high office shows
that Congress, too, lacks the integrity and courage to defend the Constitution.
“That the major media has but matter-of-factly
reported on his appointment, in light of his reprehensible views, shows that
they, too, are snugly in the pocket of the neo-cons behind this obvious
debasement of the judiciary.”
Other pending judicial nominees for federal
circuit court positions include Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owens,
who is most remembered for voting to benefit Halliburton and Enron after taking
campaign contributions from them.
Also nominated is California Supreme Court Justice
Janice Rogers Brown, whose decisions have always come against workers’ rights,
senior citizens, protecting children from lead poisoning, etc.
Both the nominations of Brown and Rogers are still
pending before Senate investigations after being nominated in 2003.
The Alliance for Justice, a judicial watchdog
group that monitors presidential appointments, has opposed both nominations,
stating they failed to demonstrate a commitment to protecting the rights of
ordinary Americans, one of the standards used by the group in determining a