Mr. Torture Gets New Gig
February 11, 2009, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Ian | Tags: ,

Academic freedom is very important.  Universities exist to produce knowledge, uncontrained by political winds or the whims of wealthy donors.  If professors live in fear of termination without good cause, they cannot contribute their university’s mission.

So even though I would have fired John Yoo from the Berkeley faculty—not because of his repugnant viewpoints, but because his incompetent representation of a former client, the United States of America, calls into question his ethical fitness to train young lawyers—I am sympathetic to the reasons why Berkeley allows him to stay.

What is completely incomprehensible to me, however, is why a different university, which is not bound by a tenure agreement with Professor Yoo, would nonetheless hire him as a visiting faculty member.  Admittedly, that school is Chapman Law School, whose faculty boasts such legal luminaries as Rush Limbaugh wannabe Hugh Hewitt, but Chapman’s most recent hire can do little more than take a school whose most famous professor makes them a punchline, and turn that school into a tragic embarrassment.

Chapman Law Dean John Eastman, who worked with Yoo as co-clerks to Justice Thomas, claims that this new hire is to bring “publicity” to his relatively young law school, and it has already accomplished that goal.  I could also garner publicity by advising my client to torture helpless captives, but I doubt it would turn out well for any organization foolish enough to hire me afterwards.

UPDATE: A member of Chapman’s permanent faculty responds here.


34 Comments so far
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From what I hear of the first year in law school, the Yoo treatment might be an improvement 😉

Comment by Jeff

Its like giving the bankers who got us into the economic mess we are in a huge, multimillion dollar bonus.

Comment by George Queral

Maybe you can help me out. I get the whole notion of academic freedom, and am in favor of it. Why did it protect Yoo?

The various bad acts of which he is accused (OK, clearly guilty) took place, not when he was at Berkeley, but when he was employed by Justice. How does academic freedom even come into play? Please explain!

Comment by drinkof

The various bad acts of which he is accused (OK, clearly guilty) took place, not when he was at Berkeley, but when he was employed by Justice. How does academic freedom even come into play?

As I understand it, the divide on whether John Yoo should be fired is between those who feel that his actions were wrong because his viewpoints are repugnant, in which case academic freedom should protect him, and those who feel that his actions are wrong because they demonstrate that he is an incompetent and unethical lawyer, in which case academic freedom should not protect him.

I fall into the later camp, but the UC Berkeley faculty apparently falls into the former.

Of course, I am not a legal academic, so if any law professors happen to be reading this site, I’d be curious for their input.

Comment by Ian

Berkeley has also produced The Intelligent Design crowd and its operative organization The Wedge.

Comment by Richard Scott Salamack

Disbar this torture loving a hole.

Comment by V

I had John Yoo as a professor at Boalt before he went to the Bush Admin. Despite the fact that he seemed to be gunning for a judicial appointment by a conservative president by insinuating himself publicly into every conservative cause (Prop 209 – the CA anti-Affirmative Action proposition; Bush v. Gore), he is an extraordinarily bright and engaging professor. I found his views on just about everything absolutely repugnant and would have supported every formal disciplinary measure the nation’s traditional most liberal law school in the country could have thrown at him short of dismissal. In 2004 the graduating class picked one of the most outspoken liberal professors to give the commencement speech and she noted “even the Nazis had lawyers” much to the chagrin of many of the students. her point was well-taken if not hyperbolized (or maybe not but that’s an open question). My guess is that Yoo is going to Chapman where he has friends because he is much despised at Boalt Hall, his brilliance notwithstanding. I don’t think i have to say it here, but at this point, Chapman is no Boalt. On the other hand, an environment receptive to your views is important in academia and I guess Yoo is too conservative (or tainted) even for the more conservative elite law schools. In my estimation, Yoo’s attempts at becoming a conservative superstar seemed initially like they were going to pay off, but ultimately the nation’s liberal backlash has hurt Yoo’s chances at the success he thought he was going to find as a neo-con darling. It was one thing to oppose liberal causes like affirmative action and the rightful election of Al Gore in 2000, but it was wholly another to stand up in support of torture.

Comment by MJ

Of course, tenure and the academic freedom that comes with it will not protect him from the long arms of international law. If the U.S. has any integrity, we will either prosecute Mr. Yoo or offer him up ourselves to the International Criminal Court if we are not up to the task. Then he can spend 10-20 years reading the works of Robert H. Jackson and his work at the Nuremberg Trials.

Comment by Buckywunder

Yoo isn’t brilliant. Coming up with a bullshit line of reasoning to defend torture isn’t brilliant, it’s just reprehensible. Period. The fact that he’s stepped wide of 2 centuries of juriprudence doesn’t make him brilliant, it just makes him a wacko.

Comment by brantl

Will Yoo retain his position @ Berkley? Or does this sever his ties there?

Comment by Christina

So does this mean that the Boalt School of Law is off the hook on Yoo? Can he keep his tenure at Berkeley and be a visitng prof at Chumpman??

As for his tenure at Berkeley, virtually every university has a moral turpitude clause in the tenure policy. It’s usually designed to weed out pedophiles,preverts, serial adulterers, heroine addicts and the like, but Yoo’s enablement of torture, which at all times relevant hereto was unlawful under the Convention Against Torture signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988 and ratified into law by Congress, would, in my humble opinion, rise to the level of moral turpitude, if not outright criminal conspiracy, aiding and abetting.

Comment by Bob Lewis

I am glad to hear Chapman Law School has selected John “the fool” Yoo. He certainly should not have such an honorific post as Prof. of Law at Berkeley, one of the top U.S. schools. This move must have been a face-saving move for all involved.

To teach at Chapman does not say much about Yoo’s law skills; it reflects poorly on Yoo to move there, and obviously poorly on Chapman.

Forgive this grammatical humor: Law exists in one sentence; Yoo exists in another. The semi-colon connecting them is a tragedy.

Comment by American G

“I fall into the later camp, but the UC Berkeley faculty apparently falls into the former.”

Seems to me that the Berkeley faculty is using the former as a smokescreen to avoid their responsibility to focus on the latter. The fact is that, while many find his views repugnant, nobody I know (at least nobody who believes in academic freedom at all) is calling for him to be fired for that reason. Can anybody name any responsible party calling for Yoo to be fired for that reason? Any party of any kind?

The fact is, the calls for his firing from anybody I’ve heard from are ENTIRELY made up of the latter group, and in any event, that is the substantive issue which faced the Boalt faculty. That they would use the straw man / red herring of the former to avoid addressing the substantive issue is first class weaseldom. Isn’t it?

Comment by drinkof

Chapman is a nothing law school, that’s why.

Comment by Judi

Chapman is deep, deep behind the Orange Curtain. They want to enhance their cred with Young Republicans who wanna go to law school and dick over the country and a few clients on the way. QED.

Comment by Joe Bourgeois

I think Yoo should be required to assign his torture memos to L-1s for analysis and critique every semester for the rest of his tenure.

Comment by alspruce

Re: Yoo’s Brilliance (or lack thereof). Just for clarification, i thought he was a brilliant teacher (teaching about the relatively mundane world of US v. Lopez and federalism issues) but that doesn’t discount his legal arguments or attempts at logic to back his positions on the neo-con agenda of our time. as an academic myself – in another university system altogether – i prefer academic freedom, but i do believe a university has an obligation to take a stand and it’s possible that via quiet backchannels Boalt already has taken a stand and Yoo is in the process of moving to Chapman on that basis. Absent a major promotion or enormous pay raise, it’s hard to imagine such an elitist professor to have agreed to move to a much less well-regarding law school for any other reason (although a bunch did jump ship to the UCI law school for reasons i don’t, as a relative outsider, understand). But that is absolutely pure speculation and conjecture on my part. It can’t possibly be much fun for Yoo in Berkeley these days.

Comment by MJ

” … it’s possible that via quiet backchannels Boalt already has taken a stand …”

Quiet backchannels, after some years, is not a stand, by any definition. Behind the scenes moves after all this time are, by definition, made to ease their discomfort, not on principle. Weasels.

Comment by drinkof

I think academic freedom is important, but Yoo’s work goes far beyond a debate of ideas, to a twisting of the law. He should be indicted for breaking of U.S. law, and if that cannot happen here, it should begin in Europe with war crime accusations at The Hague. Then Berkeley may have a “reason” to suspend him.

That being said, the last month in D.C. shows that the proponents of an imperial U.S. presidency, (under the unitary executive theory, it is called) must be brought into court for verdicts, whatever the outcome.

These neo-conservative imperialists seem to display a mindset–like those weasels you hit with a mallet in a carnival game–that if not taught a lesson through an objective, mallet-like process like the court system; they will not understand nor relent.

Comment by American G

Where and what IS this Chapman Law School?

I’ve been a lawyer for 32 years and have never heard of them. Are they even ABA accredited?

Boalt, don’t let this criminal come back!

Comment by Ralph

There’s no necessary relationship between brilliance and sterling character. Some of the most vicious human beings in history, who were totally indifferent to the consequences of their actions were, nevertheless, brilliant in accomplishing their goals. Joseph Stalin’s decision to let the dissidents in his empire die of starvation was conceptually brilliant. After all, why waste the bullets when you can employ mother nature to do the job for you for free? John Yoo is simply a modern counterpart, but in certain respects, he is far worse. Stalin actually did believe that the carnage he caused was ultimately for the benefit of Mother Russia. That was his delusion. Yoo functioned (and still functions) apparently without any delusions. I know, you know, everybody knows that he didn’t actually believe the silly trash he concocted. The simple fact is that he was a well paid political hooker and like any good whore, you gotta put out when your John comes knocking on your door. That said, I’m uncomfortable with the anology because it really is unfair to whores, who by and large, engage in their trade out of some financial or psychological necessity. Yoo, on the other hand was not driven by any such necessity. He was well educated and well regarded in the legal fraternity. Why he sold his soul and degraded not only himself, but our national legal and political system, is a perplexing question that will probably follow him to his grave. In the interim – Yoo and Chapman Law School? – why not?
They probably deserve each other.

Comment by William B.

University of California Irvine is in the process of opening a very liberally oriented Law School that is expected to break into the top twenty law schools in the country in its inaugural rating. The Dean of the School is perhaps the great constitutional scholar of the last several generations, Erwin Chemerinsky. He has put together a faculty drawn from the best of law schols across the country who have hewed to his vision for the school.

Chapman Dean John Eastman was a strong voice against the opening of the UCI Law School, likely motivated strongly by the liberal tilt of the faculty and the fact that UCI Law School will eclipse Chapman in seconds. Bringing Woo on board is, in my estimation, to try to woo (pardon the pun) conservative nasties to the school and get funding. Chapman, as can be seen from the hiring of Woo and from Eastman’s credentials, a radically conservative law school. Eastman is hitting the panic button and declaring war with UCI Irvine.

Comment by OC Martini Man

As a lawyer in California myself, I’m not so certain that Berkeley should keep Mr. Yoo. Good grief, Mr. Yoo’s example (of malpractice against the Constitution, itself) is NOT the one we want set for lawyers in training.

As for Chapman hiring him…. wow. Lawyers who don’t believe in the rule of law teaching other lawyers…..

Comment by Kim

Is “Chapman” in California? I need to know so that I can advise any future pupal where not to go to law school.

Comment by JimVanCise

Why has John Yoo not yet been summarily executed, as per his own memos and simple justice?

Comment by Mandy

I am a professor at Chapman Law School. I would like to clarify a couple of points that have been raised on this and other blogs and media sites. First, Professor Yoo is a visitor, not a permanent faculty member. The faculty has no input in deciding whom the dean may appoint as a visitor; it is entirely within the purview and authority of the law school dean to appoint visiting faculty. That being said, it should be pointed out that the dean has brought ideologically diverse faculty to our campus, including those with whom he has strong disagreements.

Second, Professor Yoo’s opinions, whether or not they are protected by academic freedom, do not reflect the views or perspectives of this faculty as a whole. We have a very ideologically diverse faculty covering a wide range of views on a wide range of topics. More specifically, we have permanent faculty who specialize in human rights, immigration reform, domestic violence prevention, elder law, responsible fiscal policy, gender equality, racial equality, and marriage equality for same-sex couples. As an example, 14 Chapman Law faculty members recently joined in an Amicus brief filed in the California Supreme Court in support of those who wish to overturn California’s Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative.

Regardless of your opinion of Professor Yoo, I urge you to judge Chapman on the outstanding quality of our faculty, students, and programs, and not on one visiting appointment. Our permanent faculty, besides being a group of highly accomplished and motivated teachers and scholars, is deeply committed to the principles of the rule of law and to instilling that respect in our students. Our students are intelligent, engaging and just as diverse in ideological perspectives as our faculty. Our programs are innovative and challenging and designed to train outstanding, ethical attorneys. Please visit our website at http://www.chapman.edu to see for yourself some of the great work that we are doing.

Comment by Marisa Cianciarulo

[…] John Yoo February 12, 2009, 6:54 pm Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: john yoo Last night, I criticized Chapman Law School for hiring torture memo author John Yoo as a visiting professor.  In comments, Chapman Law Professor Marisa Cianciarulo responds, and I am republishing her […]

Pingback by Chapman Professor Speaks Out on John Yoo « Overruled

So glad I chose NOT to go to Chapman.

Comment by pastcaring

[…] Mr. Torture Gets New Gig Academic freedom is very important.  Universities exist to produce knowledge, uncontrained by political winds or the […] […]

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With all due respect to Marisa Cianciarulo, but anger, disenchantment or outrage to including Yoo as guest faculty or otherwise, is not simply due to a disagreement over varying opinions about or interpretations of the law.

Yoo’s memos and opinions represented the detachment of our nation from our Constitutional moorings as well as our commitments to Geneva. He played a direct, vital role in the creation of a neo-con world vision which expediently debased human rights.

So, please let’s not act as if it is simple disagreement between two factions of vague and nebulous philosophical thought.

He broke the law. Period. He should not be allowed the privilege of teaching.

Comment by pastcaring

I easily can feel empathy for a law professor who finds out their Dean just hired someone instrumental in undermining U.S. law during the last decade. Yoo and his memos are implicated in the torture of innocent as well as guilty people, for recent history shows that many people at Guantanamo Bay have been released without charges, and contend they are entirely innocent.

That being said, as the post above states, “Yoo’s memos and opinions represented the detachment of our nation from our Constitutional moorings as well as our commitments to Geneva. So, please let’s not act as if it is simple disagreement between two factions of vague and nebulous philosophical thought.”

I say with total seriousness that the crimes at Guantanamo Bay, according to reports already released and published in Harper’s and The New Yorker, demand investigation equal to the Nazi medical experiments that occurred during WWII. I say “medical,” because according to multiple sources, the torture used psychological professionals in its planning and implementation, sometimes in direct and specific application to certain patients.

“Prof” John Yoo does not represent a difference of opinion, but a detachment of rhetoric from law to pursue morally questionable–and seemingly unconstitutional and illegal–ends. He needs to defend himself against these charges before the bar and court, not be a teacher.

Comment by American G

As long as Yoo ends up in jail with cheney, rove, and addington, anything else is ok.

Comment by grf67

What angers me is that Berkeley violated their own hiring and tenure policies. Yoo had not performed anywhere near the minimum terms in residency when he was offered tenure. In addition, he has been repeatedly been granted leaves of absence, not only to serve in the Federal government, but for “visiting professorships” both abroad and in the US.

No other Berkeley professor would have been allowed such long absences, or granted tenure in the first place. Many great Assistant Professors, performing important research and active in student academic activities, have not been granted tenure.

Chapman University, Visiting Scholar [2009]
Distinguished Fulbright Chair in Law, University of Trento (Italy), [2006].
In residence at Boalt.[2004-2005; 2007-2008] Minimum teaching load…Director of Pre-Law Student Institute.
Visiting Scholar, American Enterprise Institute, 2003-present.
Visiting Professor, University of Chicago Law School, 2003. Office of Legal Counsel, United States Department of Justice, 2001-03.

Yoo teaches at Boalt 1997-2000 [3 years… granted tenure]

Judiciary Committee, United States Senate
General Counsel, [1995-96]; Clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas [1994-95]

Comment by cinnamonape

Thank heavans he wasn’t the sperm donor for Sulemans octuplets.

Comment by nearlynormalized

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