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June 30th, 2010 5:30 PM

Sad Clouds Hang Over St. Thomas Law Graduation

By Roger Cuthbertson and Coleen Rowley

UPDATED 6/29/2010 Clouds hung over the St. Thomas School of Law graduation on May 8, 2010, in more ways than one.  The University of St. Thomas Law School held its graduation ceremony at Orchestra Hall, a few blocks from their campus.  So most of the celebrants parked at the campus and walked the few blocks to Orchestra Hall.  They thus got an opportunity to pass by our anti-torture demonstration at the northwest corner of Orchestra Hall.  Although many attending the graduation seemed intent on ignoring the signs, some seemed surprised and at least one graduate voiced his approval, saying he had recently completed a paper on torture. 

The protest focused on the actions of Professor Robert Delahunty, pictured above, who walked quickly by and did not seem happy to be reminded of his past.

Robert Delahunty is currently a professor at St. Thomas University School of Law, teaching courses on Constitutional Law and on Conflict Resolution.  However, prior to becoming a law professor at UST, Delahunty worked in the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice, for President George W. Bush.   After 9-11, when people high in the Bush Administration needed legal cover for their decisions to depart from the Geneva Conventions and other international treaty law, to conduct "extraordinary renditions" (kidnappings) to "black sites" and "enhanced" or "harsh" interrogations (considered torture by most legal scholars), they turned to their OLC lawyers to produce what they hoped would be a "golden shield" for their illegal actions.  John Yoo and Robert Delahunty co-authored some of the early memos that served as the cornerstones to "legalize" the Bush Administration's orders.  The infamous memo of Jan 9, 2002 by Yoo and Delahunty (see Index of Bush-Era OLC Memoranda Relating to Interrogation, Detention, Rendition and/or Surveillance for the entire list) had the effect of providing a green light that led to the illegal treatment and torture of detainees in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and CIA "black sites" around the world.  

Jan 9, 2002: "We conclude that neither the federal War Crimes Act nor the Geneva Conventions would apply to the detention conditions in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba or to trial by military commission of Al Qaeda or Taliban prisoners." (See OLC Memo from John C. Yoo, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, OLC to Robert J. Delahunty, Special Counsel, OLC re Application of Treaties and Laws to al Qaeda and Taliban Detainees.  It concludes that international treaties do not protect members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban militia.  Also see Jan. 14, 2002 OLC Memo of John C. Yoo, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, OLC and Robert J. Delahunty, Special Counsel, OLC  to William H. Taft, IV, Legal Advisor, Department of State re Prosecution for Conduct Against al Qaeda and Taliban Members under the War Crimes Act.  It asserts that the Justice Department’s interpretation of the War Crimes Act precludes prosecution under the statute for conduct against al Qaeda and Taliban members. The memo is cited in John Yoo’s 03/14/03 memo concerning military interrogation of alien unlawful combatants.)

 It has been noted how the stated mission of the University of St. Thomas School of Law which "as a Catholic law school, is dedicated to integrating faith and reason in the search for truth through a focus on morality and social justice" is turned on its head when the school administration refuses to relieve Professor Delahunty of his teaching responsibilities or hold him to task in any public manner for his prior actions which helped bring about the torture of human beings.

 The t-shirt worn by some of us and modeled below served as a reminder of this hypocrisy.

 The gentleman in the blue jacket, on the far left of the picture below, is Mr. Chato Hazelbaker, Director of Communications for St. Thomas University School of Law.  He went out of his way to tell us that our t-shirts were not only objectionable, but possibly in violation of certain proprietary rights of St. Thomas University.  We did not take off our shirts. He spent some energy trying to discourage the peaceful protest and telling us where he thought we absolutely couldn't hold our banners because we would be in violation of property rights. We followed some of his suggestions and no problems occurred.

  

We stand in favor of free speech and democracy but against the practice of torture and the attempted "legalization" of torture and extra-judicial kidnappings and detentions.

Without a full investigation, including the writing of the OLC memos that attempted to provide legal cover and protect those who ordered as well as those who practiced torture, such illegal human rights abuses are bound to reoccur.  Without any accountability, it appears that law professors like Yoo and Delahunty continue to still teach their same discredited theories of presidential "war powers".

Let's hope there comes a time, however, when the law school returns to following its original mission statement and its students' graduation does not have to be marred by such sad reminders.

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