SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A conservative federal appellate court judge who was a key author of the so-called torture memos under the Bush administration criticized personal attacks on the judiciary even while defending President Donald Trump’s authority to ban travelers from mostly Muslim nations.
Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee did not mention President Donald Trump by name. But the judge said in a court filing Wednesday that “personal attacks” on the district court judge and 9th Circuit judges who blocked the administration’s first travel ban were “out of all bounds of civic and persuasive discourse.”
“Such personal attacks treat the court as though it were merely a political forum in which bargaining, compromise, and even intimidation are acceptable principles,” he wrote. “The courts of law must be more than that, or we are not governed by law at all.”
Trump referred to U.S. District Court Judge James Robart in Seattle as a so-called judge after Robart suspended the administration’s first travel ban. He called the 9th Circuit’s decision disgraceful and has said the court is in turmoil. Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, has also criticized the president’s attacks on the judiciary, according to U.S. Senators.
Bybee’s comments came in a dissent against the 9th Circuit’s decision not to revisit its ruling keeping the Trump administration’s travel ban on hold.
The administration has since issued a new travel ban, though that too has been blocked by courts.
Four other conservative judges on the 9th Circuit signed Bybee’s dissent.
Bybee was a high-ranking official in the Justice Department during the Bush administration when he helped draft legal theories that led to waterboarding and other harsh treatment of terrorism suspects.
An initial review by the Justice Department’s internal affairs unit found Bybee had committed professional misconduct. But the Justice Department’s top career lawyer disagreed.
Bybee was confirmed to the 9th Circuit in 2003 before his role in the torture memos became public.