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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Bush Appointed Judge Dismisses Gitmo Detainees Case, Scoffs at Supreme Court

Wingnuts rejoice

A fine payback for King George II on the event of his coronation.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon has handed down a decision that neatly repays his benefactor, George W. Bush, who appointed him to the bench. Pissing on last year's Supreme Court decision that said detainees had the right to challenge their detention, Leon upheld the Administration's assertion that the detainees have no constitutional rights.

"In the final analysis, the petitioners are asking this court to do something no federal court has done before: evaluate the legality of the executive's capture and detention of non-resident aliens, outside the United States, during a time of armed conflict,'' he said.

This despite last year's Supreme Court decision, summarized here in the WaPo:
The court said detainees, whether American citizens or not, retain their rights, at least to a legal hearing, even if they are held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Guantanamo Bay is under U.S. control and thus appropriately within the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, the high court ruled.

The president's constitutional powers, even when supported by Congress in wartime, do not include the authority to close the doors to an independent review of the legality of locking people up, the justices said.

"We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in Hamdi et al v. Rumsfeld.
As Barbara Olshansky, a lawyer with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, noted: "I didn't think it was going to be quite as sweeping as this nor quite as dismissive of the Supreme Court's decisions."

And Eugene Fidel, president of the National Institute for Military Justice, said that Leon's decision interprets the Supreme Court to mean "you can come in the courthouse door, but you don't have any rights once you're inside."

He challenged Leon's interpretation.  "It's clear these detainees enjoy some substantive rights, besides entering the courthouse and dropping some papers on the clerk's desk."

BTW, you have to go outside the US for anyone to consider this front page news today. I found it on the BBC news.  The NYT and WaPo have it buried behind all the innauguration wingnut revelry.

Coincidence that this decision came down when almost nobody would pay any attention to it? We think not.

Update: An excellent follow-up post by DC Pol Sci, who says that open warfare in the courts is likely as a result of this decision. A highly recommended read.