Bernstein Comments on Yale Controversy in Padilla v. Yoo

Padilla v. Yoo, a lawsuit about human rights and the Constitution, also has become a lightning rod for criticism involving Yale Law School, and Professor David Bernstein (Yale Law '91) comments on the controversy in the Yale Daily News.

The suit was filed by convicted terrorist Jose Padilla against John Yoo, former deputy attorney general in the Bush administration who authored the administration's guidelines for interrogation and detention policies.Yoo happens to be a Yale Law School graduate. Padilla's attorney, Jonathan Freiman, is a Yale Law alumnus, as well.

Therein lies the rub, as many alumni, depending upon perspective, have been concerned with either Yale's association with Yoo or with the concept of Yale suing its own alumnus.

Professor Bernstein expressed the view that ideological tension at Yale leads some to believe that the suit is part of a larger political agenda, especially when its dean is known to be vocal about human rights. In addition, he points out that most law schools honor successful alumni, rather than challenging them in court.

"Usually law schools go out of their way when some prominent alumnus who served in a high-level government position to be especially nice and to honor him," Bernstein said. "So this is a man-bites-dog story; instead of the Law School honoring him, they're suing him. That's a good hook if you're a blogger--or the Wall Street Journal," he said.

For Yale Law School, conflicting narratives, Yale Daily News, January 30, 2008. By Isaac Arnsdorf.

"Something about Yale in particular has repeatedly drawn conservatives’ ire.

"Steven Calabresi ’80 LAW ’83, a law professor at Northwestern and founder of the Federalist Society, said Yale professors have also been more outspoken than their counterparts at peer institutions in opposing Bush administration policy in the war on terror, which places them squarely opposite Yoo.

"This ideological tension, Bernstein said, leads some to believe that the law suit is part of a larger political agenda at the Law School.

“'It doesn’t seem as separate because the dean, Harold Koh, of course is so vocal about international human rights,' he said. 'Not that he interferes, but clearly he has an interest in the clinic and who’s staffing it. If it was something he’d frown upon, it’d be less likely that they would do it.'

"Bernstein said that some people, especially conservatives, who take interest in following what happens at Yale Law interpret the Yoo suit, on top of Yale’s opposition to military recruiters on its campus, as yet another sign of Yale becoming an ideologically activist law school.

"There are those who will say that Yale Law School has become more politicized in an ideological way," Bernstein said."

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