Saturday, June 30, 2007

Big News from the Supremes

This sure doesn't happen often, so when it does it's important.

You may know that the U.S. Supreme Court has almost complete control of its docket. There are almost no cases that are automatically within the direct jurisdiction of the Court; almost every case the Court hears comes to it on a petition for certiorari, which the Court is never required to grant. Of the thousands of petitions to the Court every year, fewer than one hundred are granted.

One of the cases that was denied earlier this year was a case challenging the legality of the prison camp at Guantanamo and the kangaroo courts set up to keep people there. The petitioner asked the Court to reconsider its decision denying the writ of certiorari and yesterday, in the last day of its term, the Court granted the reconsideration.

Even without this decision this story would have been big news because one of the attorneys involved in these tribunals filed a sworn declaration with the Court detailing what a sham the status review hearings are. Decisions are made on the basis of sketchy, incomplete, and conclusory evidence, that sometimes didn't even relate specifically to the detainee whose case was under consideration; exculpatory evidence was withheld; and decisions that detainees were not unlawful enemy combatants were challenged by superior officers.

In short, despite assurances that there was a process to make fair and accurate determinations on the threat posed by detainees, the process was actually designed to confirm the detention of anyone unlucky enough to be caught up at Guantanamo.

Although not a guarantee of any given result, the fact that Justice Anthony Kennedy apparently changed his vote and has now voted to grant certiorari. This is one more opportunity to expose the crimes of the Bush Administration. You have to wonder what they have left if Guantanamo is found to be unconstitutional.

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