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Supreme Court opens up Gitmo lawsuit floodgates; Scalia: “The Nation will live to regret what the Court has done today. I dissent.”

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By Michelle Malkin  •  June 12, 2008 10:56 AM

What’s that sound? The thunder of left-wing lawyers and Gitmo detainees jumping up and down for joy at the Supreme Court’s ruling this morning. Brace yourselves. Dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia warns that the ruling “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed” and concludes “The Nation will live to regret what the Court has done today. I dissent.”

Chief Justice John Roberts says the rule of law and the American people have lost out–and with this ruling, we “lose a bit more control over the conduct of this Nation’s foreign policy to unelected, politically unaccountable judges.”

The bottom line via SCOTUS blog:

In a stunning blow to the Bush Administration in its war-on-terrorism policies, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign nationals held at Guantanamo Bay have a right to pursue habeas challenges to their detention. The Court, dividing 5-4, ruled that Congress had not validly taken away habeas rights. If Congress wishes to suspend habeas, it must do so only as the Constitution allows — when the country faces rebellion or invasion.

The Court stressed that it was not ruling that the detainees are entitled to be released — that is, entitled to have writs issued to end their confinement. That issue, it said, is left to the District Court judges who will be hearing the challenges. The Court also said that “we do not address whether the President has authority to detain” individuals during the war on terrorism, and hold them at the U.S. Naval base in Cuba; that, too, it said, is to be considered first by the District judges.

The Court also declared that detainees do not have to go through the special civilian court review process that Congress created in 2005, since that is not an adequate substitute for habeas rights. The Court refused to interpret the Detainee Treatment Act — as the Bush Administration had suggested — to include enough legal protection to make it an adequate replacement for habeas. Congress, it concluded, unconstitutionally suspended the writ in enacting that Act.

I’m reminded of what one DHS source pointed out to me when the high court ruled in favor of habeas corpus rights four years ago: “Hmm, now that the Gitmo detainees are entitled to habeas challenges and hearings by American courts and American judges, I wonder how long before they and their lawyers claim that they are entitled to asylum hearings as well?”

Won’t be long now!

Howard Bashman has links to the ruling and oral argument transcript. Justice Scalia’s dissent says it all:

Both the Chief Justice and Justice Antonin Scalia issued dissenting opinions, and all four dissenters joined in both dissents. In his dissent, Justice Scalia writes, “The game of bait-and-switch that today’s opinion plays upon the Nation’s Commander in Chief will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.” Justice Scalia’s 25-page dissenting opinion concludes, “The Nation will live to regret what the Court has done today. I dissent.”

Jonathan Adler: “As I (super-quickly) skim Justice Kennedy’s opinion for the Court, it appears to hold that Guantanamo detainees have habeas rights, that these rights can only be denied through a valid suspension of habeas rights (under the Suspension Clause of the Constitution), that the procedures created by the Detainee Treatment Act were not an adequate substitute for habeas, and therefore Section 7 of the Military Commission Act is an unconstitutional suspension of the detainees’ habeas rights. I’m sure I (and others) will have more to say about this case in subsequent posts.”

Mark Levin:

While I am still reviewing the 5-4 decision written by Anthony Kennedy, apparently giving GITMO detainees access to our civilian courts, at the outset I am left to wonder whether all POWs will now have access to our civilian courts? After all, you would think lawful enemy combatants have a better claim in this regard than unlawful enemy combatants. And if POWs have access to our civilian courts, how do our courts plan to handle the thousands, if not tens of thousands of cases, that will be brought to them in future conflicts?

It has been the objective of the left-wing bar to fight aspects of this war in our courtrooms, where it knew it would have a decent chance at victory. So complete is the Court’s disregard for the Constitution and even its own precedent now that anything is possible. And what was once considered inconceivable is now compelled by the Constitution, or so five justices have ruled. I fear for my country. I really do. And AP, among others, reports this story as a defeat for “the Bush administration.” Really? I see it as a defeat for the nation.

UPDATE: The 5-4 GITMO decision brings to the front, yet again, John McCain’s position on judges versus his own policies. McCain undoubtedly supports the 5-4 decision, yet the justices who voted against it, and argued strenuously against it, are of the kind McCain claims to want on the bench. We have seen the same issue arise respecting campaign finance. This is not to say that McCain won’t nominate originalists to the bench. But if he does, he will be nominating to the Court individuals who are better adherents to the Constitution than he is.

I’m skimming through the ruling, too. Here’s the key passage of the majority’s ruling, pp. 41-42:

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. Cf. Hamdi, 542 U. S., at 564 (SCALIA, J., dissenting) (“[I]ndefinite imprisonment on reasonable suspicion is not an available option of treatment for those accused of aiding the enemy, absent a suspension of the writ”). This Court may not impose a de facto suspension by abstaining from these controversies.

See Hamdan, 548 U. S., at 585, n. 16 (“[A]bstention is not appropriate in cases . . . in which the legal challenge ‘turn[s] on the status of the persons as to whom the military
asserted its power’ ” (quoting Schlesinger v. Councilman, 420 U. S. 738, 759 (1975))). 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.

Here’s the conclusion of Chief Justice John Robert’s dissent, pp. 27-28.

So who has won? Not the detainees. The Court’s analysis leaves them with only the prospect of further litigation to determine the content of their new habeas right, followed by further litigation to resolve their particular cases,followed by further litigation before the D. C. Circuit— where they could have started had they invoked the DTA
procedure. Not Congress, whose attempt to “determine— through democratic means—how best” to balance the security of the American people with the detainees’ liberty
interests, see Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U. S. 557, 636 (2006) (BREYER, J., concurring), has been unceremoniously brushed aside. Not the Great Writ, whose majesty is
hardly enhanced by its extension to a jurisdictionally quirky outpost, with no tangible benefit to anyone. Not the rule of law, unless by that is meant the rule of lawyers,
who will now arguably have a greater role than military and intelligence officials in shaping policy for alien enemy combatants. And certainly not the American people, who today lose a bit more control over the conduct of this Nation’s foreign policy to unelected, politically unaccountable judges.

I respectfully dissent.

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Related: Who’s funding the Gitmo lawyers?

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