The National Lawyers Guild calls on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to recuse himself from any case coming before the Supreme Court involving the constitutionality of torture as an interrogation technique. In a BBC interview that aired on Tuesday, Scalia defended the use of torture to extract information from persons in custody by law enforcement officials in some cases. Although no case involving the use of torture is currently before the Court, recent events suggest that such a case may be forthcoming.
Guild President Marjorie Cohn said: “The Guild is appalled that a sitting Justice of the United States Supreme Court has ventured in a public forum his belief that it is justifiable to attempt to extract information from persons in custody by the use of torture. A justice of the highest court in the land, sworn to uphold the Constitution, whose views so undermine the fundamental right of security of the person guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, is unfit to sit on that Court.”
The thrust of Scalia’s recent remarks is that he does not believe it is clear that the government is precluded from using coercive interrogation to prevent an imminent terrorist attack. He says that the Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment, but if torture is not meant as punishment, it may not be unconstitutional. Surely Justice Scalia knows that torture is unlawful under the U.S. Torture Statute (18 USC 2340) and the U.S. War Crimes Act (18 USC 2441).
Two years ago, five retired U.S. military officers who had entered a case before the Supreme Court for Salim Ahmed Hamdan sought Scalia’s recusal after he publicly voiced skepticism abut the rights of Guantanamo detainees. Scalia declined to recuse himself.
Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director of the Guild said: “Justice Scalia’s remarks inevitably pre-judge the issues in every case in which the Constitution might dictate suppression of evidence because of illegal police interrogation techniques, or the right to compensation of a person subjected to a violation of civil rights. We therefore call upon Justice Scalia to recuse himself from any case which comes before the Court in which such issues are at stake.”
Founded in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association, which did not admit people of color, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.