Yoo gets own lawyer for prisoner’s suit

John Yoo, the former Bush Administration Justice Department official being sued by an alleged Al Qaeda operative held for more than three years an as enemy combatant, is getting his own legal representation in the case.

The move, first reported Tuesday by Bloomberg News, comes as Yoo appeals a federal judge’s ruling last month refusing to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Jose Padilla. Yoo has retained Miguel Estrada, who also represents him in a Justice Department ethics probe stemming from various war-on-terror opinions he rendered for the department, the Main Justice website reports.

The possibility that Yoo might want or need his own counsel in the case was first raised by a POLITICO article earlier this year noting the tension between the Obama Administration’s opposition to  many Bush-era terror policies and a vigorous legal defense of officials deeply involved in crafting them.

That tension may have grown as a result of the ethics probe, which reportedly has concluded that Yoo should face legal discipline for some of his work. That conclusion, when formally announced, would put the Justice Department in the position of simultaneously arguing that Yoo deserves to face some professional sanction, but shouldn’t be civilly liable for violating Padilla’s rights.

White also raised a question in March about whether the Justice Department’s legal arguments in the case had been "fully vetted" by the new administration. A Justice Department lawyer said they had. 

Yoo has defended his legal work and insisted that lawsuits like Padilla’s will threaten the ability of the government to get good attorneys to serve. Padilla’s counsel say he is seeking only nominal damages of $1, plus legal fees, which the government is all but certain to pay on Yoo’s behalf if they are ultimately awarded.

Correction: An earlier version of this post said Yoo’s retention of private counsel in the case was first reported by the Recorder, a San Francisco legal newspaper, but that fact was apparently reported earlier by Bloomberg. That Estrada would fill that role was reported by Main Justice on Wednesday. 

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