In keeping with the trend of writing about Supreme Court cases I thought that I would post about the three momentous decisions the Court handed down today related to Executive orders permitting individuals designated as “enemy combatants” to be held indefinitely without charge or trial.
The decisions are very long and I have not read them completely yet, most of my information about the rulings comes from the half hour NPR broadcast I listened to today about the Court’s decisions. If you care to read any or all of the rulings you can find them here. The three relevant cases are Hamdi vs. Rumsfeld, Rasul vs. Bush, and Rumsfeld vs. Padilla all issued today June 28th, 2004. You can find relevant news stories from the New York Times (registration required) here, or from CNN here.
In order to maintain some semblance of brevity in a post for once all I will say is that rulings represent either a major defeat for the White House or a major victory for those concerned about stripping American’s of their right to judicial oversight. The Court ruled that, most importantly, U.S. Citizens have the right (and foreign nationals have the privilege) of judicial review of claims made by the executive that they are “enemy combatants.” In essence the ruling states that anyone being held as a prisoner by the United States Government has the right (or privilege) to a judicial review of the Executive’s claims. The ruling does not challenge the right of the executive to hold person’s–U.S. citizens or otherwise–indefinitely without trial, rather it dictates that there must be a judicial process whereby prisoners are allowed to challenge the contention that the are “enemy combatants,” i.e. that there is justified cause for their imprisonment. This provides legal power to those who feel they are being held because they are enemies of the government rather than legitimate prisoners of war.
The legal questions surrounding the detention of U.S. and foreign citizens was not fully settled because the Court did not rule on the Padilla case stating that it was filled in the wrong jurisdiction. However, the rulings today should be viewed as a victory for both champions of liberty and security because they insure a continuing check on the power of the Executive by the Judicial branch without damaging the ability of the Executive to ensure the safety of America’s citizenry.
A belated response to probablyjeff’s post on the Supreme Court ruling in the Hiibel case:
Before reading this post I would strongly recommend reading the Court’s ruling with particular reference to Justice Kennedy’s statement that a 5th Amendment appeal does not apply in Hiibel vs. Sixth Judicial Court of Nevada and Justice Steven’s dissenting opinion related to 5th Amendment protections. Those interested in the potential “slippery slope” implications of this ruling should also pay particular note to Justice Breyer’s dissenting opinion. Also, remember that the Nevada law under question in this case only stipulates that an individual provide their name to the investigating officer and makes no requirement for production other identification, namely a driver’s license or “the papers.”
As additional background, the basic details of this case are well treated by New York Times articles here (a general description of the ruling) and here (a slightly longer discussion of the opinions).
Finally, I would recommend viewing Hiibel’s personal site, reading his account of the facts and viewing the video of the arrest (a Bit Torrent link is available on the site). Regardless of the Court’s opinion, the police work evinced by the video is disheartening. The situation could have likely been diffused without argument or arrest if the officer at the scene had acted in a more professional and courteous manner. In the same way that a request by an officer for a suspect to identify himself by name may be viewed as reasonable, the counter provision that an officer answer basic questions about their investigation and intent should also be upheld. The video introduces problems into my evaluation of the Court’s majority opinion specifically because it demonstrates the clear possibility for abuse and overextension of Terry Stop provisions that the Hiibel ruling may allow, and which Justice Breyer warns of in his dissent.
A recent 5-4 ruling by the supreme court upheld a Nevada law which makes it a criminal offense to refuse to give your name to a police officer. The supreme court is tiptoeing on giving up a persons sense of privacy. Beware!
So I have spent the last few days in Brooklyn, NY at a computational geometry conference (SoCG). This is the end of the second of three days. It has been a little exhausting. I am trying to meet as many of the big names in the field as possible. My advisor, Pankaj, knows everyone and his more senior grad students know many people as well. I am just trying not to say anything stupid, which is hard when the banquet is held on a yacht with an open bar. A professor from Duke, Lars, got me pretty drunk. On the way back from the cruise (we had to find the subway in Manhatten) a large group split. I somehow wound up on the subway with Pankaj, while Lars and others went off to more bars in midtown. I think Pankaj introduced me to some important people on the subway but I am not sure.
Many older grad students have been telling me what the point of conferences is. (Apparently its not to publish papers.) (1) Andrew Ladd : Conferences are like a reward for grad students. If you work hard and are successful, then you get sent to some nice place. (2) Nabil Mustafa : Conferences are a place to meet a few people (for possible collaboration) and then to enjoy yourselves. Attending the talks are not really important, most are not that related to what you are doing. (3) Yusu Wang : Conferences are a chance to network.
I think that they are a little of each. Although I did not have a paper here, I plan to (or at least hope to) publish in the future. I think conferences are a reward for grad students, but they also serve as a way for us to establish ourselves as researchers, meet other researchers, and figure out how research works. I don’t know how much I accomplished, but I am glad to have gotten a free trip to New York.
This is the official “I don’t feel like posting anything but I will because I think it’s needed and I’m going to make it 3 categories at that” post.
In other news, I bought a Sony CLIÉ PEG-TH55 over the weekend and saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban tonight. The PDA rocks (see right for self-portrait taken with it) a little more than Potter; having just undergone a 24-hour emergency re-read, the changes to the plot (much more extensive than in the previous movies [1 2]) were kind of annoying. The main characters were pretty static in this movie, although new characters Professor Lupin, Professor Trelawney, and Sirius Black were portrayed well. Considering the later books are much longer (and more complex), I wonder how much massaging their plots will undergo. Something tells me I might be disappointed in 2005 and 2007 (although at least the credited cast appears to remain unchanged for Goblet of Fire). Please don’t misunderstand; I enjoyed it. I guess I just had high expectations that weren’t quite satisfied (I call this the “Matrix Reloaded” effect).