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.

By Phillip Carter |  June 12, 2008; 10:23 AM ET  | Category:  Law
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``The nation will live to regret what the court has done today,'' Scalia said in his written opinion on this decision.

Does this regret equal that done in his cabal's decision on Florida votes in the 2000 Presidential election?

Another reason for Presidential political change before Scalia reqrets more of "fidelity to freedom's first principles" backed by a court packed with aditional releases from the Parochial Archipelago.

Posted by: Bill Keller | June 12, 2008 11:48 AM

They are entitled to Human Rights?
I thought the Decider had spoken, 'enemy combatants' have the legal standing of 'crash test dummies' in American courts?
While Scalia will be remembered by history as a skid mark on the tighty whiteys of American Jurisprudence, there are three other pillars of conservative thinking (Justices Moe, Curley and Schemp) contributing to the stain, which one flubbed the "Crash test dummy" test (I bet it was Chief Justice Schemp, that guy is not a reliable conservative, he thinks too much)?

Posted by: Dijetlo | June 12, 2008 12:37 PM

If foreign terrorists detained at Gitmo have the constitutional privilege of habeas corpus, then they must have the same rights that other American citizens have under the US Constitution. Now that the court has opened the door, how can it pick and choose from among the rights it wants to award detainees?

Posted by: doug | June 12, 2008 1:44 PM

Sigh. This is such stupidity that I can't even think of anything constructive to say. Captured terrorists should have no rights, other than the right to be interrogated and then recive a quick and efficient execution.

Posted by: ZZim | June 12, 2008 4:26 PM

Sure, ZZim, just get a rope. Why bother with courts, lawyers, laws, and such?

Posted by: CT | June 12, 2008 4:58 PM

You can't imprison a man or woman for six years without a hearing to see if the holding is legal. The Supreme Court recognized that.

Posted by: beebs | June 12, 2008 6:15 PM

So...this means the Nuremberg trials were unconstitutional too. Goering didn't have the right to habeus corpus did he?

Oh and does that mean everytime a soldier/marine/etc captures a terrorist or enemy soldier they have to read them the miranda and be available for testimony at any hearing?

Posted by: tps | June 13, 2008 8:43 AM

Some amazingly ignorant comments up thread. Don't confuse habeus corpus with charge and trial. Habeus corpus is the right to require the government to show that they have proper cause to hold a person.

It was intended to prevent the practice of indefinitely holding someone without charges - which is the situation of the majority of the inmates at Gitmo.

And before anybody raises the "they're all TERRISTS" hue and cry - they aren't all terrorists. Given the number the government has ALREADY released, most aren't - or at least the government has so little evidence that they can't even bring charges - and after 6 years it's highly unlikely that any further evidence is suddenly going to surface to change that.

Posted by: Butch | June 13, 2008 10:32 AM

Well said Buch, a lot of "amazingly ignorant comments up thread".

What worries me more than a few towel heads who have been driven insane by 6 years of G'mo....
Is the four, that's right, four (4) justices who voted against this ruling.

Just what principles do the four think they were upholding?
The right to run a Spanish Inquisition?
The idea that justice for all is limited to only people we like?

If the minority had sway, this decision would have gone down in history as eternally stupid and backwards. Just like the 1883 Supreme Court ruling that ruled the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was unconstitutional. An act which read: "That all persons ... shall be entitled to full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement."

The result of that stupid ruling was to allow racial segregation of this nation, a shame we have not yet lived down, or got over, more than 100 years later.

That this ruling was so close is a crying shame and embarrassment for any person who claims to love freedom and justice.

But for one vote, it would have gone the wrong way, based on the tenuous argument of granting deference to the executive branch, would have established a ruling junta in America.

Posted by: James M | June 13, 2008 7:04 PM

I notice the media spins this as "A stunning blow to the Bush Administration in it's war-on-terrorism policies."

Seems to me this is not a 'stunning blow' but a thoughtful, though belated, upholding of the principles of the constitution, freedoms and the law of this nation.

While it is easy to frame a court battle like a boxing match, when it gets to the Supreme court there are more important underlying issues of liberty and freedom that the media should address, and not just in passing.

Posted by: James M | June 13, 2008 7:09 PM

Given the administration's shallow arguments for holding these people indefinitely, I've always wondered why they even bothered with establishing the whole Gitmo setup. It's clear they've already determined these prisoners are guilty, thus the opposition to normal judicial safeguards. So why didn't they just summarily execute them where they caught them and thereby save us all of the grief, not to mention the expense?

We all know why. Taking a page from the sophisticated totalitarian handbook, they intended to hold show trials in their very own kangeroo court, extravaganzas designed to demonstrate to the American people that they're on the job in keeping the homeland safe. Gitmo and all of the trappings has never been anything but a PR ploy, intended to keep one party in power by dazzling the people with their resolve in the face of this "existential" threat.

Based on some of the feedback to this decision, the administration's plan has worked with a certain segment of the population. Including four Supreme Court justices. A hearty "amen" to the comments upthread regarding these four justices, who've apparently adopted Judge Roy Bean as their role model.

Posted by: Publius | June 13, 2008 9:16 PM

"Now that the court has opened the door, how can it pick and choose from among the rights it wants to award detainees?"

The Presidents oath is to the Constitution. What exactly should he be trying to uphold outside US "territories"?

Whatever he wants? He's not King of America (I'm sure you disagree with that), but he is King of the World?

They gave him and his lackeys 6 years to to come up with something that doesn't sound like and excerpt from the Count of Monte Christo. Now your hero is the sole reason the courts powers have been expanded worldwide.

Epic, Ironic Fail.

Posted by: srv | June 13, 2008 11:16 PM

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