yoo_D_20081205103104.jpgGetty Images
Former Department of Justice official John Yoo testifies before the House Judiciary committee during a hearing on the administration’s interrogation policy on June 26, 2008 in Washington, D.C.

John Yoo’s got tenure at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law. We wonder if he wishes he didn’t.

Next week, Berkeley’s City Council is slated to vote whether to demand the United States charge Yoo with war crimes. Yoo, as many of you likely recall, wrote the memos offering legal justification for torture while he worked in the Bush White House from 2001 to 2003. Here’s the story from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Even if Yoo gets past the war crimes business, another threat lurks. The city will decide whether to order Boalt to offer alternatives to Yoo’s courses, so no student is forced to take a class from him if they don’t want to. Yoo has taught constitutional and international law at Boalt since 1993.

“It gives students with a conscience the freedom to exercise their options,” said Councilman Kriss Worthington. “You shouldn’t be punished academically because you have a moral compunction about taking a course from someone who says it’s OK for the U.S. to torture people.”

Not that the school would accede to a yay vote on the alternatives-to-Yoo measure. “They can pass this measure, but it won’t have any bearing on the university’s policy,” says Boalt spokeswoman Susan Gluss, adding that Yoo is a well-liked professor who encourages a wide range of thinking in his classroom. As a tenured professor, he is protected by the university’s academic freedom policy unless he’s convicted of a crime and sent to jail.

Yoo could not be reached for comment, but he has been a source of controversy because of a 2002 memo he drafted that was signed by his boss, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, providing the legal basis to justify torture in interrogating terrorism suspects. Among other things, Yoo argued that habeas corpus and other legal protections don’t apply to CIA detainees because Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib are not on U.S. soil. The memo was later rescinded by the Department of Justice.