Jay Scott Bybee is a Senior United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He assumed senior status on December 31, 2019. From March 21, 2003 to December 31, 2019, he was a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He was appointed by U.S. president George W. Bush.
Bybee was born on October 27, 1953, in Oakland, California, and raised primarily in Clark County, Nevada. He also lived in Nashville, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky. He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics (magna cum laude) and his Juris Doctor degrees (cum laude) from Brigham Young University. He had served on the editorial board of the BYU Law Review and spent a year as law clerk to Judge Donald S. Russell of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
He was in private practice in Washington, DC, for three years then worked for the U.S. Department of Justice from 1984 to 1989. From 1989 to 1991 he was Associate Counsel to President H. W. Bush.
Bybee then was a professor of law at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University until 1999. He was a professor of law at William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas from 1999 until his appointment as Assistant Attorney General in 2001 (until March 13, 2003). In 2000, he was voted Professor of the Year.
He taught constitutional law as a Senior Fellow in Constitutional Law at Boyd Law School from 2005 to the present.
During August 2002 as Assistant Attorney General and head of the Office of Legal Counsel of the United States Department of Justice, he signed a legal memoranda known as the “Torture Memos” which was advice for the use of enhanced interrogation techniques during the War on Terror. The memoranda was under considerable controversy and was rescinded by President Obama in January 2009. A U.S. Senate report released in 2014 detailed how the CIA misled Bybee and the Justice Department about the severity of the interrogation techniques, the relationships between the suspects and al-Qaida and the success they were having eliciting information with the techniques.
Bybee has co-authored Powers Reserved for the People and the States: A History of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments (2006) (with Thomas B. McAffee and A. Christopher Bryant), and Religious Liberty Under the Free Exercise Clause (with Lowell V. Sturgill). Bybee has also written more than 20 law review articles, notes, comments, and book chapters.
He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served a full-time mission for the Church in Santiago, Chile. Bybee and his wife, Dianna, are the parents of four children. After suffering severe depression from a young age, their 26-year-old son committed suicide inside the courtyard of the Las Vegas temple.