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.