No Comment — October 15, 2009, 9:43 am

Bybee Avoids Judicial Complaint

As head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, Jay Bybee issued a series of memoranda—rescinded by the Justice Department before Bush left office—purporting to legalize the torture and mistreatment of prisoners held in the war on terror. His conduct is potentially chargeable under the War Crimes Act and the Anti-Torture Act. But the Ninth Circuit doesn’t consider it worth serious consideration in the context of a judicial misconduct complaint. The Ninth Circuit’s Judicial Council has turned back a complaint directed against Judge Bybee based on his key role in crafting torture policy. The decision, issued by Judge Alex Kozinski, did not deal with the merits of the accusations leveled against Bybee, or the claim that Bybee never would have been confirmed by the Senate had it been informed of his role in the torture scandal. The complaint was “dismissed for failure to allege judicial conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts” because the misconduct that was its subject occurred before Bybee became a circuit judge.

Bybee currently remains on the bench, notwithstanding the fact that he is the subject of a criminal investigation overseas and cannot travel abroad without risking arrest and imprisonment.

Activists seeking Bybee’s removal have one more card to play: impeachment. The record is clear that judges may be impeached and removed for crimes committed before they came on the bench. The question now passes to John Conyers and the House Judiciary Committee.

Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada



October 2015

Lives by Omission

Lifting as We Climb

Cattle Calls

Getting Jobbed

view Table Content


“One of the peculiar things about economic inequality is that the people who are most articulate about it are not poor, while the poor themselves have said little, at least in print, about their situation.”
Photograph © Reuters/Brendan McDermid
“It would be nice to get through this review without recourse to the term ‘writer’s writer.’ The thing is, in the case of Joy Williams, I have seen the cliché made flesh.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
“Miniatures originated in Persia and were brought to the Indian subcontinent when the Mughals conquered it in the sixteenth century. They could take on almost any subject: landscapes or portraits; stories of love, war, or play.”
Painting by by Imran Qureshi.
“The business of being a country veterinarian is increasingly precarious. The heartland has been emptying of large-animal vets for at least two decades, as agribusiness changed the employment picture and people left the region.”
Photograph by Lance Rosenfield
“Rosie and her husband had burned through their small savings in the first few months after she lost her job. Now their family of five relied on his minimum-wage paychecks, plus Rosie’s unemployment and food stamps, which, combined, brought them to around $2,000 per month, just above the poverty line.”
Illustrations by Taylor Callery

Ratio of children’s emergency-room visits for injuries related to fireworks last year to those related to “desk supplies”:


The ecosystems around Chernobyl, Ukraine, are now healthier than they were before the nuclear disaster, though radiation levels are still too high for human habitation.

The Islamic State opened two new theme parks featuring a Ferris wheel, teacup rides, and bumper cars.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


Subways Are for Sleeping


“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today