Sunday, April 06, 2008

That's The Ticket!

Now here's something to brighten your day: a bill has been introduced in the California Senate zeroing in on those who facilitate the torture of detainees, according to an article in the Sacramento Bee.

The California Senate is preparing to weigh in on the hot-button topic of torture, with a twist that combines elements of the Hippocratic oath and the military oath.

Under a resolution that state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas plans to put to a vote Thursday, California regulators would notify physicians and other health professionals that they could lose their license and be prosecuted by the state if they are involved in the torture of suspected terrorists. ...

The marvelous part about all of this is that this isn't just some loony California move. There appears to be some teeth behind this growl:

Over the years, the Legislature has weighed in on complicated national issues over which it has no jurisdiction, such as wars and international treaties. But in this instance, it does appear to have some legal standing.

Dr. Richard Fantozzi, president of the California Medical Board, which licenses physicians, cited a 2005 legal opinion by the state attorney general's office that concluded the state has jurisdiction over licensees serving in the military or practicing in federal facilities.

Fantozzi said the state Supreme Court has also ruled that a state licensing agency may discipline a licensee for conduct occurring outside the state.

As the article points out, any state investigation is bound to be stonewalled by the military and the federal government, but what if the state manages to get around that wall? Surely doctors and psychologists have to be a little nervous about getting disciplined by their licensing board and potentially being prosecuted by the state. The proposed bill got the prompt attention of the California Medical Association

Dr. Vito Imbascini, state surgeon of the California National Guard, said "a few Californians were among the practitioners in the healing arts involved in torture" at U.S. military facilities at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

"But given the tiny number of renegade offenders, we think a more effective approach (than the resolution) would be to target those offenders," said Imbascini, who represented the 35,000-physician California Medical Association at the hearing.

One wonders just what Dr. Imbascini and the California Medical Association are worried about if there's just a "tiny number of renegade offenders."

Here's another good idea for the California Legislature to consider: why stop with the medics. Why not look into the behavior of those lawyers who have violated their professional oaths by shredding the US and State Constitutions. Such an idea was suggested to me in an email from one of the lawyers involved in the defense of detainees in Guantanamo Bay. She would like to see John Yoo disbarred for his efforts in promulgating the theory that torture is OK during war time. Some of her Gitmo colleagues are a little hesitant at such a move, fearing it would detract from the main issue they face (the loss of habeas corpus), but I think that's a sterling move. If we can't get the Bush administration and the current Congress to stop the horrendous behavior, let's do an end around them via state licensing boards. There's a whole slew of lawyers who might see their gravy trains derailed.

Lift their tickets. Then prosecute them.

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Anonymous larry, dfh said...

And de-certify UC-Berkeley for hiring Yoo. If they can't tell a qualified candidate for a teaching position, maybe they shouldn't be in the education business. BTW, same goes for the ivy leagues.

8:11 AM  
Blogger The Law Office of H. Candace Gorman said...

I think schools like Berkeley will think twice about who they are hiring when professors are stripped of their law licenses.. many more of these war criminals are going to be out looking for jobs in the coming months. ..Some have already been given federal (lifetime) judicial positions... we need to showcase their individual involvement in the administration policies that have ignored our constitution, international law and the treaties we have entered into.

9:31 AM  
Blogger The Law Office of H. Candace Gorman said...

I did a bit of checking into the history of complaints about gitmo personnel with licenses in California... and it seems there is good reason to make this a state statute as opposed to leaving it in the hands of the agencies that police themselves (we know how that goes, don't we....?)

It seems that back in 2005 a complaint was filed against John Edmondson (the former head of detainee care and a CA licensee). First the A Board denied that it possessed jurisdiction over activities at the base. Then a mandamus action was filed in state court against the board alleging that under CA state law the Board not only possesses jurisdiction but was required to investigate complaints of unprofessional conduct. In response the Board conceded that they possessed jurisdiction but that they were exercising administrative discretion not to proceed in investigating complaints (citing budgetary constraints, inherent difficulties in conducting an investigation abroad, etc.) Ultimately the Guantanamo detainees lost on that point. Anyone familiar with administrative law knows that once an agency gets into the realm of discretion it's almost impossible to force action. Maybe there has been a change on that board since 2005...but I can tell you with certainty that they were rather resistant about digging into this issue at all back then. For that matter so was the AMA, WMA, and WHO.

Maybe we can make all of these agencies do the right thing now? and what about the lawyers and the American Bar Association?

2:38 PM  

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