09 September 2005

Jose Padilla Loses in 4th Circuit.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has held by a 3-0 decision that the President has the power to detain an American citizen who was arrested while unarmed in the Chicago O'Hare airport, and then detained in jail by a civilian court, indefinitely as an enemy combatant. Jose Padilla has been in a military brig for three years and four months without a trial or any evidentiary hearing before a court. My Daily Kos diary on the subject is here and received a great deal of discussion as a recommended diary there. He may now appeal to either the full panel of 4th Circuit judges, or the U.S. Supreme Court. He is likely to take the later route.

This is arguably the worst decision ever in the history of American civil liberties jurisprudence, if the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to review it. It all but ends the right to habeas corpus and the right to due process, giving the President the power to detain people indefinitely on his say so, with only limited court review.

I think that the U.S. Supreme Court will take Padilla's appeal. Four justices opined when his case was last before the U.S. Supreme Court (and dismissed on the grounds that it was filed in the wrong court, not on the merits), that he had a right to be freed immediately. It takes just four Justices to grant certiorari. All of the Justices except Thomas had expressed deep skepticism in the Hamdi decision about the propriety of a case like this (including Justice Scalia). I sincerely hope that it rules in his favor and banishes the enemy combatant doctrine, at least in this context, to the wastebin of history. I would have slept better tonight, however, if the 4th Circuit had ruled correctly in this case, as the George W. Bush appointed trial judge, the 2nd Circuit did on exactly the same facts.

1 comment:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

It appears that Luttig, the author of the 4th Circuit decision was also simply wrong in his interpretation of the "Declaration" (not even a fact) that he relied upon. Rather than taking up arms against the United States, the facts relied upon by the Court show that he made every effort to flee and avoid taking up arms against the United States.

Also, a commentator in another post at the site notes that if Padilla had worn a uniform and had an al-Queda ID while blowing up apartment buildings in the U.S. that he would have to be held as a POW and would be immune from criminal prosecution under the theories advanced by the government.