U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White has cleared the way for Jose Padilla to sue University of California Professor John Yoo for the violation of his rights due to his physical abuse as a detainee. It is a relatively novel ruling that holds that government lawyers must be treated as other officials in participating in illegal programs or policies.
Padilla is currently serving time for supporting terrorists and conspiring to commit murder. He argued that Yoo’s memos violated Geneva Convention bans on physical abuse. Judge White held that “[l]ike any other government official, government lawyers are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their conduct. The specific designation as an enemy combatant does not automatically eviscerate all of the constitutional protections afforded to a citizen of the United States.”
The Court granted dismissal of that part of the complaint that alleged violations of the privilege against self-incrimination. However, Padilla is given leave to file a new amended complaint to add the needed factual basis for the dismissed claim.
Despite the continued refusal of the Obama Administration to investigate the alleged war crimes of Bush administration in its torture program, Judge White found no ambiguity in the law or their meaning:
First, the basic facts alleged in the complaint clearly violate the rights afforded to citizens held in the prison context. The complaint alleges that military agents entered a civilian jail, seized a citizen from the civilian justice system, transported him to a military brig, detained him there indefinitely without criminal charge or conviction, deprived him of contact with anyone, including attorneys or family, removed the basic ability to practice his religion, and subjected him to a program of extreme interrogations, sensory deprivation and punishment over a period of three years and eight months. The specific designation as an enemy combatant does not automatically eviscerate all of the constitutional protections afforded to a citizen of the United States. See Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 741 (2002) (“officials can still be on notice that their conduct violates established law even in novel factual circumstances”); Phillips, 477 F.3d at 1079-1080 (holding that the fact that no case has found a constitutional violation under the exact facts alleged does not imply that the law is not clearly established); Giebel v. Sylvester, 244 F.3d 1182, 1189 (9th Cir. 2001) (holding that a right can be clearly established on the basis of common sense in the absence of precedent directly on point).
The case is Padilla v. Yoo, 08-00035, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
For a copy of the amended complaint, click here.
For a copy of the opinion, click here.