Thursday, June 12, 2008

On The Docket: Bush Administration Has Again Exceeded Its Constitutional Authority

In a 5-4 ruling today, the Supreme Court held that Congress is without power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus for individuals being held at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. The Bush administration argued that trial by military commissions, as authorized by the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commission Act is an adequate substitute for habeas. The Supreme Court, in rejecting this position, has paved the way for Camp X-Ray prisoners to have their cases heard in federal courts.

Justice Kennedy wrote the decision of the Court, authoring an opinion that traces the history of the "Great Writ" back to Magna Carta. Here's a snippet:
The Framers viewed freedom from unlawful restraint as a fundamental precept of liberty, and they understood the writ of habeas corpus as a vital instrument to secure that freedom. Experience taught, however, that the commonlaw writ all too often had been insufficient to guard against the abuse of monarchial power. That history counseled the necessity for specific language in the Constitution to secure the writ and ensure its place in our legal system.
* * *
The Framers’ inherent distrust of governmental power was the driving force behind the constitutional plan that allocated powers among three independent branches. This design serves not only to make Government accountable but also to secure individual liberty. Because the Constitution’s separation-of-powers structure, like the substantive guarantees of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, protects persons as well as citizens, foreign nationals who have the privilege of litigating in our courts can seek to enforce separation-of-powers principles.
(internal citations omitted.)
Let's just remember that this isn't the liberal, liberty-loving court of the 1950's and '60's. And as the Times reports, it's yet another "harsh rebuke of the Bush administration."

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