Shorter Judge Clark: Fuck Yoo

How do you say…shrill?

A judge who usually constrains his opinions to the technicalities of bankruptcy law broke from habit last week and denounced U.S. policy on the detention of “enemy combatants” as “the tactics of the old Soviet Union.”

In an e-mail message to National Public Radio that was read aloud on NPR’s “Morning Edition” program Friday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Leif Clark attacked the views of a former Bush administration official who had framed the White House policy on the detention of suspected terrorists. The official, John Yoo, argued that such prisoners are ineligible for the protections of the Geneva Conventions.

“The very idea of holding anyone without trial, without the right to see the evidence that was used to justify naming them an enemy combatant, and depriving them of the ability to challenge why they’re even there, is so repugnant to a constitutional democracy that I’m shocked this man actually claims to be defending American values,” Clark said in the e-mail. “These are the tactics of the old Soviet Union, not of a country that stands for freedom and the rule of law.”

The outburst surprised other judges and could subject Clark to disciplinary action, lawyers said. Clark, a judge in San Antonio, Texas, was unavailable to comment Monday.


In his e-mail to NPR, Clark said he worries what might happen to the U.S. legal system if part of a proposed law now before Congress would allow a president to send anyone to a secret tribunal where habeas corpus, which bars imprisonment without trial, can be suspended.

“How easy it would be for a president to use such a law to make his political enemies simply disappear. Can this be America?” Clark said in the e-mail.

Few federal judges have been sanctioned for political statements. Of those found to have broken ethics rules recently, public admonition was a common penalty.

8 thoughts on “Shorter Judge Clark: Fuck Yoo

  1. All it takes for evil to triumph, is for good men to say nothing. At long last, a few courageous people are speaking out, from Olbermann to the judge. At age 61, this is the first time I’ve ever feared that our democracy wouldn’t survive. Little by little, piece by piece, the corrupt bunch of political thugs that passes for an administration has illegally undermined our constitutional rights, with the enthusiastic approval of our legislature. Using fear and scapegoats, they have increased their power, much as happened in Germany in the 30’s.
    If we don’t take back at least one house this election, I genuinely doubt we’ll have another. We look more and more like a banana republic.

  2. Judge Clark is actually being pretty brave here; Bankruptcy Judges aren’t life appointees like Article III federal judges. They’re appointed for terms, and he has probably kissed renewal of his judgeship goodbye, even if he isn’t outright removed from the bench, just for speaking the truth.

  3. Judge Clark has earned the admiration and gratitude of all Americans who understand what our Constitution is all about. It took a lot of courage to toss his judicial career away like that, but I assume he finally reached the point where his conscience wouldn’t allow him to remain quiet. If only our Democrats in Congress had consciences.

  4. IMO It’s a measure of just how far things have gone astray when criticism of the dubious actions of a former Bush official, made by a Judge with a legitimate duty and obligation to defend the constitution of this country, is construed as a “political” statement.


  6. I had similar questions. The thing I don’t understand about the furor: he is a bankruptcy judge. I would be surprised if this intersects with Gitmo/Terrorist cases for even one case in his lifetime.
    I assume that he has qualifications including an understanding of the law. But beyond this, this doesn’t intersect with his current professional duties. In short, it is a personal opinion from someone learned in law. As such, I think it is unfortunate that this would influence his career as that would be retribution for having a personal opinion. While the opinion isn’t political, he is a set up to receive political fall out from it.

  7. Honest disagreement about legal rulings is NOT POLITICAL. It is a legal matter. Disagreeing with the party in charge does not make any persons viewpoints “political”. What has happened to the minds of Americans? When did we forget that every argument has not two, but THREE sides: his side, her side and THE TRUTH!!

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