Inside Higher Education is reporting today on its website about a controversy at the University of Minnesota over the engagement of Robert Delahunty as a visiting professor. Delahunty is one of the lawyers at the Office of Legal Counsel who wrote the "torture memos" advising the administration on various aspects of constitutional law, domestic and international criminal law, and the law of warfare, as it pertained to the treatment and questioning of detainees. He is now teaching at St. Thomas in Minneapolis, and would be teaching constitutional law next year at U. Minn. Reacting to student complaints, two U. Minn. professors have claimed that it's only ideological extremists are objecting to Delahunty's appointment as a visiting professor. (See also this article from the Minnesota student newspaper.) In response, one student said it's an issue of legal ethics, not ideology.
I agree wholeheartedly that it would be a violation of academic ethics to reject an exciting, talented constitutional law scholar as a visitor, solely on the basis of ideology. While there are probably some people who criticize the OLC lawyers' work on ideological grounds, the principal objection to the work of Delahunty, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and others has always been that it was incredibly sloppy lawyering. Or, to put it another way, it was results-driven to an extent that crossed the line between forceful advocacy of a plausible position and smoke-and-mirrors evasion of legal requirements. A group of professors at U. Minn. has criticized Delahunty for violating his professional obligations to make a good faith effort to determine the scope of the law.
To the extent the objection to Delahunty is based on his demonstrated lack of competence as a lawyer (or, more likely, his willingness to disregard his professional obligations at the behest of his employer), I don't see the academic freedom issue. Schools routinely refuse to hire people on the entry-level or lateral market, or engage them as visitors, when their scholarly work is judged to be inadequate by the standards of legal scholarship. Those standards are things like persuasiveness, thoroughness of research and discussion of sources, balanced treatment of opposing arguments, and overall reasonableness. All of these things are lacking in the torture memos.
At the risk of reopening an old discussion, remember the battle in the 1980's over Critical Legal Studies. Conservatives (and even some moderates, like Paul Carrington) objected to CLS not necessarily because of its ideological orientation (although that surely played some role) but because some who aligned themselves with CLS seemed to disrespect the law as such. Carrington's famous Of Law and the River article made the point that law is a craft, and it would be odd to hire someone to teach in a law school who has contempt for the craft. Similarly, the torture memos reveal an instrumental attitude toward the law that is at odds with the attitudes and dispositions toward the law that we presumably seek to inculcate in our students. (If you find words like "disposition" and "inculcate" scary, and think this is some kind of thought control at work, ask yourself what legal educators are doing when they engage in Socratic dialogue with students; isn't it an attempt to make them better at making legal arguments? The issue is not whether legal education is about instilling attitudes -- it is about the nature of the attitude we seek to instill.)
One objection to this whole line of criticism is that Delahunty is not an entry-level candidate, but a visiting professor with a track record as a teacher and scholar. If the record is sufficiently probative of his competence at teaching and scholarship, then it would probably be unfairly prejudicial (in the parlance of evidence law) to reject him as a visitor on the basis of his role in the torture memos. But the torture memos are at least probative of competence, which is relevant to the hiring decision, and (at least in principle) independent of ideology.
Addendum, re the following comment by Kenneth Graham, at UCLA:
Law schools constantly hire people who have advocated bad policies when they were in private practice; for example, lawyers at corporate law firms who try to make it easier for corporations to harm consumers. So one should not assume that the views advanced are necessarily the lawyers. And doesn’t it make a difference whether the person is hired to teach international law—-the subject of his bad opinion—-or securities regulation?
The ground for criticizing the torture memos (at least, my ground) is not that they're bad policy in some extra-legal sense. One could make that argument, but then Prof. Graham would be correct that a lot of competent lawyers represent clients who want to do things that are a bad idea from a policy point of view. Rather, the objection is that a lawyer who simply acquiesces in a client's demand, where the client has no legal basis for its proposed course of action, is failing to carry out the fundamental professional obligation of providing competent, independent, candid legal advice and to refuse to assist the client in an illegal course of action. (In legal ethics lingo, this is a Rule 1.1/Rule 2.1 issue.)