Should John Yoo Teach?

Berkeley Professor Brad DeLong has called for John Yoo to be fired from the university’s law school. He makes a strong argument and I agree that Yoo shouldn’t be teaching law when he seems to have such a flawed understanding of it. I also have a great deal of respect for Professor DeLong in making such a public statement.

However, I have been uncertain whether it is actually worthwhile to fire him. At first, I thought my concerns were over academic freedom and the ethics of firing a professor for legal advice given as a lawyer to a client. However, in the wake of the news surrounding the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility’s unpublished report, those misgivings have more-or-less faded away. Fortunately, that allowed me to uncover the source of my concern – it isn’t big enough.

It isn’t enough to fire Yoo from Berkeley. (He will undoubtedly get another job, either at a law school desperate for attention, like Chapman, or at a conservative think tank). It isn’t enough to disbar him. For the role he has played in undermining the Constitution, the rule of law, and the dignity of man, those actions are insufficient. If he cannot or will not be prosecuted, then the public opprobrium must be so great that his opinions, like Carthage’s fields, are sown with salt so that nothing no policy there may grow. Yoo delenda est.

Despite our pretensions to academic freedom, professors get fired, or denied tenure, for any manner of comments found to be controversial. A 30-second google search found these two on the first results page. With his conservative credentials burnished by being fired by ‘liberal academics’, Yoo will move on to new heights from which he can launch attacks in op-ed pages around the country. This is not sufficient.

But for all that, I’m fairly certain it is necessary.

Update: I got unnecessarily rabid here, and conflated several issues. Yoo should be prosecuted for any crimes, especially war crimes, he committed. His opinions should be forcefully rejected by the public so they don’t form the basis for future policy. Firing him is insufficient for his potential crimes, inappropriate for his opinions, and necessary for his deficient professional ethics and practices. I conveyed this opinion exceedingly poorly.

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Published in: on February 19, 2009 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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