SCOTUS announces decision on Boumediene v. Bush
June 12, 2008 at 11:04 AM
The Supreme Court released today its decision on the Boumediene v. Bush case. At issue was whether non-citizens held in military custody have a constitutional right to habeas relief. The ruling represents a major loss for the Bush Administration.
The nearly 70-page decision, written by Justice Kennedy, holds that prisoners in Guantanamo Bay do have the right to habeas relief to challenge their detention. It also found that the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA), passed by Congress, is inadequate and not a viable alternative to traditional habeas.
Justice Kennedy writes in the majority opinion:
It is true that before today the Court has never held that noncitizens detained by our Government in territory over which another country maintains de jure sovereignty have any rights under our Constitution. But the cases before us lack any precise historical parallel. They involve individuals detained by executive order for the duration of a conflict that, if measured from September 11, 2001, to the present, is already among the longest wars in American history. See Oxford Companion to American Military History 849 (1999). The detainees, moreover, are held in a territory that, while technically not part of the United States, is under the complete and total control of our Government. Under these circumstances the lack of a precedent on point is no barrier to our holding.
We hold that Art. I, §9, cl. 2, of the Constitution has full effect at Guantanamo Bay. If the privilege of habeas corpus is to be denied to the detainees now before us, Congress must act in accordance with the requirements of the Suspension Clause. . . . The MCA does not purport to be a formal suspension of the writ; and the Government, in its submissions to us, has not argued that it is. Petitioners, therefore, are entitled to the privilege of habeas corpus to challenge the legality of their detention.
Interestingly, Justice Scalia took the unusual step of summarizing his dissent from the bench stating the court's decision was an "incursion into military affairs" and that America is "at war with radical Islamists" and that the court's decision will "almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed".
Court says Guantanamo detainees have right to challenge detention -- Washington Post
Key quotes from Boumediene v. Bush -- Volokh Conspiracy
Government loses Boumedience 5-4 -- Volokh Conspiracy
Boumediene v. Bush (opinion) -- SCOTUS Blog
Rasul v. Bush (opinion - established that court has jurisdiction over detainees at Guantanamo Bay) -- Cornell Legal Information Institute