New hire controversial

Delahunty co-authored a memo to President Bush containing legal advice concerning al-Qaida.

by Elena Rozwadowski

The decision to hire a controversial professor to teach a Constitutional Law class next semester has students and faculty raising ethical concerns about his actions as a legal professional.

Professor Robert Delahunty, hired by the University of St. Thomas School of Law in 2004, will take over a mandatory University Law School class while professor Dale Carpenter takes a leave of absence.

Before his job at St. Thomas, Delahunty was an attorney in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, where he co-authored a memo to President George W. Bush containing legal advice about the military’s treatment of al-Qaida detainees.

The memo stated, “because of the novel nature of this conflict, moreover, we do not believe that al Qaeda would be included in the non-international forms of armed conflict to which some provisions of the Geneva Conventions might apply.”

Delahunty and his co-author went on to address specific concerns from the president’s administration.

“Only by causing great suffering or serious bodily injury to POWs, killing or torturing them, depriving them of access to a fair trial, or forcing them to serve in the Armed Forces, could the United States actually commit a grave breach,” the memo stated.

That memo caused some at the University to question Delahunty’s presence this spring, said first-year law student Jon Taylor.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with academics; we hear he’s a fine teacher,” Taylor said. “It has more to do with ideology.”

Taylor said students and staff were uninformed about the decision, and those active in human rights immediately recognized the name because “amongst human rights violators, he’s a pretty prominent leader.”

Delahunty said he was unaware of any controversy surrounding his employment at the University and encourages students to discuss problems with him.

Delahunty said he applied for the position after another faculty member had to turn it down due to his own leave of absence. He said he is excited to teach at the University in the spring because he has many friends here and thought it would be a fun experience.

Those who are unhappy about the decision are signing a petition, Taylor said, in hopes that the University will reconsider.

“I know it’s just one class, but I think we see it as just someone we really don’t want to be associated with,” he said. “We’re a top 20 law school and we think that we should have faculty that don’t have questionable ethics.”

Others at the University support and are even excited about the decision, like law professor Michael Paulsen.

“Robert Delahunty is one of the nation’s leading constitutional and international law scholars,” Paulsen said. “He’s an outstanding teacher.”

Some of the controversy comes from a misunderstanding of the facts, Paulsen said. Most likely, many students are not familiar with Delahunty’s memo.

Paulsen also said the protests are coming from a few extreme individuals in the Law School.

“That’s a gross violation of academic ethics and academic freedom,” he said.

Paulsen attributes the uproar to one professor in particular he said has an ideological problem with those who disagree with his legal point of view. Paulsen declined to name the professor.

“It sometimes happens that even professors are not respecters of academic freedom and get their facts wrong, too,” he said.

Tim Busse, director of external relations at the St. Thomas School of Law, said Delahunty is doing this as a favor to the University.

“Sometimes law schools do this type of thing to help each other out,” Busse said.

Delahunty will continue to teach a full load at St. Thomas this spring.

Taylor is mainly concerned about the lack of professionalism he said Delahunty displayed as an attorney.

“As an attorney, we have to give advice based on what the law is,” Taylor said. “Instead of doing that, he basically just manufactured the law.”