Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Based on his legal experience, the commendable manner in which he has conducted himself while serving as the wartime general counsel in the Pentagon and his compelling life story, William J. Haynes II would make an ideal appellate-court judge. Having first been nominated in 2003 to serve on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and then renominated in 2005 after Democrats threatened to filibuster him in 2004, Mr. Haynes has recently concluded his second appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee in as many Congresses. His nomination deserves a prompt vote in committee, which approved him during the 108th Congress. Then, the U.S. Senate should quickly give him an up-or-down vote.

Mr. Haynes, who has twice received the American Bar Association’s highest rating, which Democrats have long considered to be the gold-standard seal of approval for federal judges, “is one of the better nominees that I have seen,” former Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch told the Hill newspaper.

A few Republicans have expressed concern, particularly South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. A former judge advocate general (JAG), Mr. Graham has publicly worried that General Counsel Haynes may not have given due and prompt consideration to objections about prisoner-interrogation methods raised by JAGs when the Department of Defense was establishing procedures for the global war on terror. In fact, a close reading of the record confirms that Mr. Haynes responded quickly and favorably in late 2002 and early 2003 to the very concerns raised by the JAGs, according to a July 2004 summary memo providing a chronological account. The memo was prepared in July 2004 by Alberto J. Mora, who served as the general counsel of the U.S. Navy throughout the period in question.

The Mora memo reveals that JAGs had expressed serious reservations over the “coercive interrogation” methods authorized by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in December 2002. Mr. Mora himself met with Mr. Haynes during December 2002 and early January 2003. Later that month, i.e., within about 40 days from when the questionable procedures were authorized, the Mora memo reports that “Mr. Haynes said that sec Rumsfeld would be suspending the authority to apply the techniques that same day.” Mr. Mora concluded his memo by reporting that, to his knowledge, “all interrogation techniques authorized for use in Guantanamo after Jan. 15 fell within the boundaries authorized by law,” representing “a happy culmination of the long debates in the Pentagon.”

Confirming the way Mr. Haynes has operated as the Pentagon’s general counsel, four retired JAGs recently wrote to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter and Democratic ranking member Patrick Leahy. “As general counsel, he takes seriously the advice presented to him by Judge Advocates General and others at the Defense Department,” they recounted. “It’s no exaggeration to say that [Mr. Haynes] has been sensitive to, and solicitous of, the views of JAG officials.”

One final point: After graduating from Harvard Law School, where Mr. Haynes studied after attending Davidson College on an Army ROTC scholarship, he joined the Army for a five-year tour of active duty as a captain. He will serve honorably on the 4th Circuit — if the U.S. Senate gives his nomination the up-or-down vote it deserves.

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