SCOTUS rebukes the administration, upholds the Constitution

Hooray for the rule of law! Hooray for the judiciary, which has successfully fulfilled its duty! Hooray for checks and balances! Hooray for the Constitution!

SCOTUS has “delivered a stunning rebuke to the Bush administration” and ruled that the military tribunals that try Guantanamo detainees are unconstitutional.

The case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a 36-year-old Yemeni with links to al-Qaeda, was considered a key test of the judiciary’s power during wartime and carried the potential to make a lasting impact on American law. It challenged the very legality of the military commissions established by President Bush to try terrorism suspects.The case raised core constitutional principles of separation of powers as well as fundamental issues of individual rights. Specifically, the questions concerned:

• The power of Congress and the executive to strip the federal courts and the Supreme Court of jurisdiction.

• The authority of the executive to lock up individuals under claims of wartime power, without benefit of traditional protections such as a jury trial, the right to cross-examine one’s accusers and the right to judicial appeal.

• The applicability of international treaties — specifically the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war — to the government’s treatment of those it deems “enemy combatants.”

The ruling was 5-3. SCOTUSblog has the syllabus. Justices Stevens, Breyer, Bader Ginsburg, Souter, and Kennedy in the majority. Dissenting were Thomas, Scalia, and Alito. Roberts had to recuse himself because he participated in the federal appeals court decision upholding the administration’s position.

Surprise! Roberts and Alito are gung-ho on executive privilege! What a shocker! Actually you probably won’t be surprised, but I wrote on this topic some months ago:

These Supreme Court nominations aren’t about abortion. They aren’t about prayer in school or the posting the Ten Commandments in school, outlawing sodomy (i.e., fags), protecting the Pledge of Allegiance, or prohibiting flag burning. No. These nominations are about vesting authoritative powers in executive branch.

Luckily for this country these executive-backers haven’t achieved a majority on the bench. Yet. But this case also shows how negligent Senate Democrats were to allow the Alito nomination to sail through Congress. You remember, right? Democratic leaders wanted to filibuster Alito’s nomination. Only the usual gang of tepid lawmakers voted for cloture in order to avoid the stigma of divisiveness.

Let’s remember those Senators who did the right thing and voted for the United State Constitution and against cloture:

Bayh (D-IN)
Biden (D-DE)
Boxer (D-CA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Dayton (D-MN)
Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Obama (D-IL)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Schumer (D-NY)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Wyden (D-OR)

You can figure out for yourself who’s not on this list.

You’ll also notice there aren’t many “Rs” in the list. When the jackbooted thugs knock down your door, you’ll know who to thank.

Remember civil liberties and the rule of law aren’t just for those people we agree with or like, they’re also meant to apply to people we don’t like or we distrust.

  1. On some of the right wing blogs, they’re speculating that this may the “last hurrah” for Justice Stevens. Though there’s no way to find proof in that speculation, I’m not commited to the idea that those prognosticators are wrong. Long story short, I think we’re going to see another Alito-like executive favoring judge on the SCOTUS before Bush is done.

    (Of course, you have to wonder, if a Democrat replaces Bush, will these justices remain commited to executive power, or will they reveal themselves as partisan Republicans? I have no prediction either way … except about Thomas … but it will be interesting to find out, I hope.)

    Also, keep in mind that in the written ruling, the justices readily admit that Bush can maintain the status quo, as long as he gets congressional approval to do so. This ruling may be a victory for the rule of law, but probably not much else.

  2. Let’s hope that when a Democrat assumes the office, s/he won’t try to expand executive power and test the judges! Or else, I’ll have to continue blogging for the rest of my life…

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