Federal Judge Jay Bybee accepted $3.4 million in free legal assistance from 2007 to 2010 as he was under investigation for his role in the so-called “torture memos,” the National Law Journal reported. Much of the money — $3,251,893 of it — came from the Latham & Watkins law firm, whose lawyers previously appeared before Bybee in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.NLJ’s David Ingram reports:
Experts on judicial ethics said they could not recall another federal judge receiving so large a benefit. Although the fact that Latham represented Bybee has been widely reported since 2009, the dollar value of the work had not been reported. […]
The team was charged with responding to congressional and Justice Department investigations into Bybee’s tenure as head of DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. The office produced memos signed by Bybee and another lawyer, John Yoo, allowing the use of waterboarding and other intense interrogation methods. Opponents of those methods said the memos showed a reckless disregard for ethical duties, and the investigations became a key test of how the U.S. government would reckon with its past use of waterboarding.
OLC’s report found that Bybee and John Yoo engaged in professional misconduct, but a top official David Margolis overruled their findings. Latham’s pro bono work for Bybee has conflicted him out of a number of cases involving the law firm, according to NLJ.
“Judge Bybee has advised us that he will continue to recuse himself from Latham matters for some time,” Latham’s Maureen Mahoney told NLJ in an e-mail.