SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A convicted terrorist can sue a former Bush administration lawyer for drafting the legal theories that led to his alleged torture, a federal judge has ruled who said he was trying to balance a clash between war and the defense of personal freedoms.
The order by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco is the first time a government lawyer has been held potentially liable for the abuse of detainees.
White refused to dismiss Jose Padilla’s lawsuit against former senior Justice Department official John Yoo on Friday. Yoo wrote memos on interrogation, detention and presidential powers for the department’s Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 to 2003.
Padilla, 38, is serving a 17-year sentence on terror charges. He claims he was tortured while being held nearly four years as a suspected terrorist.
White ruled Padilla may be able to prove that Yoo’s memos “set in motion a series of events that resulted in the deprivation of Padilla’s constitutional rights.”
“Like any other government official, government lawyers are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their conduct,” wrote White, a Bush appointee.
Yoo did not return telephone and e-mail messages Saturday.