Habeas Rights for Gitmo
This just in via SCOTUSblog -- the Supreme Court decided today in a 5-4 opinion that detainees at Guantanamo Bay could bring petitions for habeas corpus in federal district court. A couple of excerpts from the syllabus preceding the lengthy 134-page opinion:
Petitioners have the constitutional privilege of habeas corpus. They are not barred from seeking the writ or invoking the Suspension Clause's protections because they have been designated as enemy combatants or because of their presence at Guantanamo.
... The Court does not question the Government's position that Cuba maintains sovereignty, in the legal and technical sense, over Guantanamo, but it does not accept the Government's premise that de jure sovereignty is the touchstone of habeas jurisdiction. Common-law habeas' history provides scant support for this proposition, and it is inconsistent with the Court's precedents and contrary to fundamental separation-of-powers principles.
... In some instances six years have elapsed without the judicial oversight that habeas corpus or an adequate substitute demands. To require these detainees to pursue the limited structure of DTA review before proceeding with habeas actions would be to require additional months, if not years, of delay. This holding should not be read to imply that a habeas court should intervene the moment an enemy combatant steps foot in a territory where the writ runs. Except in cases of undue delay, such as the present, federal courts should refrain from entertaining an enemy combatant's habeas petition at least until after the CSRT has had a chance to review his status.
In effectuating today's holding, certain accommodations -- including channeling future cases to a single district court and requiring that court to use its discretion to accommodate to the greatest extent possible the Government's legitimate interest in protecting sources and intelligence gathering methods -- should be made to reduce the burden habeas proceedings will place on the military, without impermissibly diluting the writ's protections.
... In considering both the procedural and substantive standards used to impose detention to prevent acts of terrorism, the courts must accord proper deference to the political branches. However, security subsists, too, in fidelity to freedom's first principles, chief among them being freedom from arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by adherence to the separation of powers.
More analysis to follow.
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