Lawyers launch petition to rescind John Yoo’s endowed chair title

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UC Berkeley students, alumni and a group of lawyers in the Bay Area initiated an online petition last week to rescind UC Berkeley School of Law professor John Yoo’s recent faculty chair endowment.

Spearheaded by the Bay Area chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, the petition was launched after Yoo was announced as a newly endowed faculty chair along with four other law professors in June. Yoo has been in the spotlight of controversy ever since he co-authored a series of memorandums, dubbed the “Torture Memos,” during the administration of former president George W. Bush.

Students and anti-torture groups protested Yoo’s role in drafting the legal documents in 2002, which advised on the use of controversial interrogation techniques while he was deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. The San Francisco chapter of national anti-war group World Can’t Wait led a demonstration in 2012 against his employment at UC Berkeley.

“We were appalled to find out that the law school decided to honor someone who provided legal cover for the criminal acts of the Bush administration,” said Carlos Villarreal, executive director of the Bay Area chapter of the lawyers’ guild. “We feel it is necessary to speak up for the victims of torture in Guantanamo and elsewhere.”

According to Susan Gluss, spokesperson for Berkeley Law, the selection of faculty chairs is made by a collaboration among current endowed chair holders, the dean and campus leadership, and it is based on seniority and current scholarship.

“Professor Yoo’s various academic awards are based on scholarship conducted while at the law school, not his work for the government,” Gluss said in an email.

Yoo could not be reached for comment.

Yoo, who has been a campus professor since 1993 and tenured since 1999, was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Department of Justice in 2010. After the decision, the former dean of the law school, Christopher Edley, said in a statement that dismissing Yoo from his professorship at UC Berkeley “creates dangers that ideological or political agendas may be advanced under the vague banner of ‘morality.’ ”

According to Villarreal, the local chapter of the lawyers’ guild has been involved with protesting Yoo in the past by holding meetings at the law school, working with activist groups and doing informational work with the national guild.

“We feel like this was done somewhat covertly,” Villarreal said. “People should know that not only has the university tenured this professor, but they’re choosing to honor him.”

The petition, which will be sent to Sujit Choudhry, the current dean of Berkeley Law, is requesting that the honor of endowed faculty chair be rescinded from Yoo. Villarreal said they are hoping to send the petition by all with 500 or more signatures, which are being collected through social media and email.

Contact Sarah Rockwood at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @srockwood44.

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  • Neoconhater

    Pretty sad Cal has a war criminal teaching law, it’s just ludicrous.
    The “my lawyers said it was OK” jive i as hollow as ever. Does Yoo bring up the text of the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials while “teaching” …..GASP!!…..law at Cal? Judge Jackson is rolling in his grave!!! Just simply because your lawyers or ranking officers claim it’s legal doesn’t make torture legal.
    So sad John Yoo and Jay Bybee (9th circuit court of appeals judge) are not facing prosecutions, and even more sad is the fact those two and so many other apologists for torture actually believe they’re patriots.

    It’s a disgrace this man is a law professor.

  • cpapermaster

    “Yoo’s legal
    analyses justified acts of outright torture” and Yoo engaged in
    “intentional professional misconduct”
    according to the Department of Justice investigation of his work ath the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel. The DOJ found that he gave incorrect
    legal advice to the President, CIA and military saying that inhumane treatment
    and torture of detainees was legal.
    U.S.
    Dept. of Justice, OPR Report, 7/29/2009

    Should Yoo be earning over $329,000 a year at our prestigious public university when his research and work product as a lawyer in the Bush Administration was characterized as shoddy and unethical? Should he be teaching law students at UC? Absolutely not. For shame, UC Berkeley. Attorney General Eric Holder should indict Yoo for
    complicity in torture, and for “legalizing” aggressive war, torture,
    warrantless wiretapping, suspension of the right of habeas corpus. Yoo is a self-admitted criminal. He belongs in prison.

  • martingugino

    Possibly once the current criminal excesses have been brought under control, and especially if Prof Yoo takes part in that reversal, his Chair can be restored, but at the present time, no.

  • Kimo

    Hopefully Professor Yoo will one day be awarded the Medal of Freedom for his sacrificial service to his country. Because of his work, we are infinitely safer from terrorist threats.

    • Sherman Boyson

      Bahahahaha. Thanks so much for the joke. I needed a laugh.

    • newyork1974

      Never mind the fact that there is no evidence for this and considerable evidence to the contrary, from US officials themselves, something Kimo apparently hasn’t heard about.

      As George Orwell noted in Notes on Nationalism, nationalists not only have no trouble justifying atrocities committed by their own side; they have an amazing ability never even to have heard of those atrocities.