A Berkeley law professor took the first step today in appealing for dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a former military prisoner over legal memos the professor wrote as a Bush administration lawyer.

John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, filed a notice of appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Yoo is asking the appeals court to overturn a decision in which a federal trial judge in San Francisco in June refused to dismiss a civil rights lawsuit filed by former prisoner Jose Padilla.

Padilla claims in the lawsuit that memos Yoo wrote while working for the U.S. Justice Department between 2001 and 2003 led to allegedly severe treatment amounting to torture of Padilla while he was held in a Navy brig in South Carolina.

In last month’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White rejected Justice Department arguments that the lawsuit should be dismissed because Yoo could not be sued for his government work.

White wrote, “Like any other government official, government lawyers are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their conduct.”

The appeal notice was filed on Yoo’s behalf by Justice Department lawyers, but says that from now on, Yoo will not be represented by the Justice Department under the Obama administration and will have a private lawyer instead. The filing does not say who the private lawyer will be.

If Yoo does not win the appeal, the lawsuit will be left in place for a possible future trial in White’s court in San Francisco.

Padilla, 38, was arrested in Chicago in 2002 on suspicion of participating in a radioactive “dirty bomb” plot, declared an enemy combatant and placed in solitary confinement in a Navy brig for three years and eight months.

He was never charged in the bomb plot, but was convicted in federal court in Miami in 2007 of supporting overseas jihadism and was sentenced to 17 years and four months in prison.

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