Monday, April 20, 2009

Movement to Impeach Judge Jay Bybee Gaining Steam


The latest Office of Legal Counsel torture memos released last week have led to calls for further investigation and criminal prosecution of former Bush administration officials. But increasingly, lawmakers, newspapers and advocacy groups are demanding the impeachment of Jay Bybee, the author of some of those memos who is now a federal judge comfortably ensconced in a life-tenured seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Yesterday, as journalists, lawyers and human rights advocates were still digesting the details of some of the grisly CIA interrogation techniques set out and justified in the four most recently released legal memos, The New York Times called for Bybee’s removal, saying he “is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution.”

Today, Rep. Jerold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Subcommittee followed suit and told The Huffington Post that the memo Bybee wrote justifying the CIA abuses “was not an honest legal memo. It was an instruction manual on how to break the law.”

This isn’t the first time critics have called on Congress to get rid of Bybee. Back in January, Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman called for Bybee’s impeachment in Slate.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is now using the growing momentum to call on its supporters to write to Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the House Judiciary Committee chairman, to “demand they hold a hearing to determine whether grounds exist for Bybee’s impeachment.”

So could it happen?

Although federal judgeships are considered lifetime appointments, Article III of the U.S. Constitution provides only that judges “shall hold their Offices during good Behavior.” And it’s up to Congress to define that.

Still, impeachment is rare: only 13 federal judges have ever been impeached, and it hasn’t happened in about 20 years.