December 18, 2014 · 26 Kislev

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2007: Boumediene/Al-Odah v. Bush
Do Federal courts have jurisdiction over habeas petitions filed by Guantanamo detainees?

Boumediene/Al-Odah v. Bush 

Oral Arguments: December 5th, 2007

Question: Do Federal courts have jurisdiction over habeas petitions filed by Guantanamo detainees? (Habeas petitions are writs through which detainees can seek information about and challenge their detentions.) 

Background:  Since the start of the War on Terror, many suspected terrorist have been detained at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.  Because this detention center is located outside of America’s borders, Administration lawyers argued that it was beyond the reach of civilian courts.  As a result, the existence of this detention facility has raised many questions about detainee’s rights, questions that the Court is slowly beginning to answer. Boumediene/Al Odah v. Bush involves 37 detainees and their appeals for trails in the United States Federal courts.  Before this case, both legislation and lower courts attempted to strip detainees of their habeas rights by declaring that Federal courts do not have jurisdiction in any detainee cases.  The Supreme Court agreed to reconsider whether the federal courts have jurisdiction, specifically in cases involving Guantanamo detainees.

Amicus Brief: The URJ joined a brief with a coalition of non-governmental organizations arguing that the federal courts have jurisdiction to hear habeas cases because the provisions of the Military Commissions act that strip prisons habeas are unconstitutional.  The brief also focused on the separation of powers and the need for habeas to ensure a system of checks and balances, allowing an independent judiciary to check for unlawful executive detainment.

Decision:  Justice Kennedy authored the Court’s majority opinion in favor of the petitioners, affirming the right of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to challenge their detentions through a writ of habeas corpus.

For the RAC’s press release on the Boumediene decision, click here.

For the Reform Movement’s resolution on civil liberties after September 11th, including habeas corpus, click here.

For a complete listing of cases that the Supreme Court considered during this term, visit the SCOTUSBlog 2007 Case Index.

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