William Haynes II

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William James ("Jim") Haynes II, of Virginia, was nominated September 5, 2006, by President George W. Bush to be United States Circuit Judge for the Fourth Circuit, vice H. Emory Widener, Jr., who is retiring.

Haynes served as the General Counsel of the Department of Defense from May 24, 2001 until his abrupt resignation on February 25, 2008. He resigned days after an article accusing him of rigging trials of enemy prisoners at Guantánamo Bay appeared in The Nation magazine. [1] Haynes was the chief legal officer of the Department of Defense and the legal adviser to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Previously, Haynes was nominated to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals by President George W. Bush on September 29, 2003. He was approved by a straight party-line vote of the Senate Judicial Committee on November 19, 2003, but his involvement with the creation of Legal Arguments for Avoiding the Jurisdiction of the Geneva Conventions in Iraq caused Senate Democrats to engage in a filibuster to prevent his nomination from receiving a full Senate vote.

Three Controversial Policies

During his tenure as General Counsel, Haynes was responsible for the development, implementation and promotion of three controversial Bush Administration policies: [2] [3]

  • The refusal to treat any of the hundreds of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and conversely, the refusal to apply Contsitutionally mandated due process to these Guantanamo Bay prisoners, who are detained with a status of Non-POW by the United States Government without being convicted of any illegal act.
    • Haynes appointed a working group led by John C. Yoo and Air Force general counsel Mary Walker that produced a report proposing ways in which existing international treaties banning torture could be circumvented, either through legal technicalities or by invoking the President's ultimate authority to wage war as he sees fit.
  • The Defense Department's military tribunal plan for trying suspected war criminals.
  • The indefinite detention of U.S. citizens by the Executive Branch without legal counsel or judicial review.

Controversial Nomination to Federal Judiciary

In a scathing New York Times editorial on March 23, 2004, William J. Haynes II was excoriated as having "been an architect of some of the Bush administration's most unenlightened policies. Now he has been nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond, Va."

The Times opined that "His record makes him unworthy of this important judgeship."

For example, the Times cited:

  • The 'enemy combatant' doctrine was developed on Mr. Haynes's watch, and it is one of the most dangerous legal developments in years.
  • Mr. Haynes's trial experience is thin. He has tried only one case to a verdict.
  • In his work, Mr. Haynes has shown a lack of concern for sensitive constitutional rights that he would be expected to safeguard from the bench.
  • He has lashed out at members of the news media and law professors who "have vehemently, and sometimes shrilly, criticized our detention of enemy combatants."
  • And he has blocked the Senate's investigation of his record. Senator Edward M. Kennedy has said that his answers to written questions have been evasive, and that "he has resisted repeated requests for clarification of his position on several important issues".

Senator Kennedy, in the Washington Post, commented on Haynes nomination:

"Nominations do not get much worse than this. Haynes does not come anywhere close to the commitment to fundamental rights and the principle of separation of powers that we all expect from the federal courts. He would be a poster boy on the 4th Circuit for denying the rule of law, and he should not be confirmed."


Career Highlights

  • Partner, Jenner & Block, 1993-1996 and 1999-2001
  • Staff vice president and associate general counsel, General Dynamics Corp., 1996-1998
  • General Counsel, Department of the Army, 1990-1993.
  • Special Assistant to the General Counsel, Department of the Army, 1989-1990
  • Captain, United States Army, 1984-1989.


  • Juris Doctor, Harvard Law School, 1983
  • Bachelor of Arts, Davidson College, 1980

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