Hamdan v. Rumsfeld

Monday, March 27, 2006
Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver and bodyguard, was captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2001 and sent to Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Hamdan, through his attorneys, brought a habeas corpus petition in federal court.

The trial judge, James Robertson, issued a memorandum decision holding that Hamdan had enforceable rights under the Geneva Convention of 1949 and could not be tried by a military commission, that Hamdan had a right to view the evidence against him, and ordered him to be returned from solitary confinement to the general population of detainees.

James Robertson was appointed to the federal bench by President Clinton in 1994, and is a member of the “Magnificent Seven.” See additional background information on him here and here.

Robertson’s decision was reversed by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, holding that the Geneva Convention cannot be judicially enforced and that the military commission was properly authorized by Congress. The court reasoned that Hamdan does not fit the definition of "prisoner of war" because his group, al Qaeda, does not display a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance and the group does not conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

One of the judges on the Appellate Court panel was John Roberts, now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Hamdan appealed to the Supreme Court and oral argument will be heard tomorrow. Because Roberts participated in the Appellate Court’s decision, he has recused himself from the Supreme Court case.

With Roberts out, a reasonable expectation of the outcome of the Supreme Court’s consideration is a 4-4 tie, with the leftist Stevens-Ginsburg-Souter-Breyer block voting to reverse the Court of Appeals. But the effect of a 4-4 tie is to uphold the Court of Appeals decision.

Faced with this likely defeat, the left is trying to get Justice Scalia to recuse himself for general remarks he made about alien detainees in Switzerland. Ed Whalen from Bench Memos on NRO concludes that no recusal is necessary. I concur.


CF said...

I concur as well. In any event the decision is solely in Scalia's hands and I predict he will treat it as he treated the suggestion that he recuse himself for a hunting expedition. (Back of the hand).

Robertson BTW seems a real piece of work. I'd be astonished if it turns out he wasn't a source for the NSA leak.

flenser said...

Did not Congress specifically take the Hamdan case out of the Supreme Courts jurisdiction with the Detainee Treatment Act? I'm sure some of the justices will come up with an explanation for why they should ignore the Act though.

terrye said...

I think Scalia will go right ahead and do exactly what the left is afraid he will do.

vnjagvet said...

I agree Scalia will not recuse. Nor should he. All he is doing now is reiterating the opinions he has authored in past decisions. This is not a reason that has resulted in past recusals.

brylun said...

It says here that Kennedy will flip again and there will be a 5-3 reversal.

And don't forget that Orin Kerr clerked for Kennedy.

Fresh Air said...

Jesus! I don't understand what is so complicated about this. Al Qaeda members don't wear uniforms, they don't belong to an official organization, let alone a country that is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions. We don't sign treaties to make the world a better place, we sign them so we can get something in return!

If Al Qaeda has been treating our prisoners with tender mercy, allowing the Red Cross to visit, and exchanging in swaps like we did with the Germans during the Second World War, I must have missed it.

I guess being a liberal means never having to engage in logic or reason, even if you are a supposedly brilliant Supreme Court justice or appellate court judge.

I am starting to believe that Souter, Ginsburg and Stevens, to name a few, are either constitutionally stupid, or think the rest of us are.

Nor should we forget the unintended consequence here: Shooting these uniformless combatants in the head instead of feeding them trout almondine at Club Gitmo. After all, that's all they are really entitled to under the conventions, anyway. Choose, liberals.