Thursday, August 24, 2006

Judicial Adventurism

Dissenting Opinions
RASUL V. BUSH (03-334) 542 U.S. 466 (2004) 321 F.3d 1134, reversed and remanded. Scalia, J., dissenting [June 28, 2004] Justice Scalia, with whom The Chief Justice and Justice Thomas join, dissenting. The Court today holds that the habeas statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2241 extends to aliens detained by the United States military overseas, outside the sovereign borders of the United States and beyond the territorial jurisdictions of all its courts. This is not only a novel holding; it contradicts a half-century-old precedent on which the military undoubtedly relied, Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U.S. 763 (1950). The Court’s contention that Eisentrager was somehow negated by Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court of Ky., 410 U.S. 484 (1973)–a decision that dealt with a different issue and did not so much as mention Eisentrager–is implausible in the extreme. This is an irresponsible overturning of settled law in a matter of extreme importance to our forces currently in the field. I would leave it to Congress to change §2241, and dissent from the Court’s unprecedented holding. Departure from our rule of stare decisis in statutory cases is always extraordinary; it ought to be unthinkable when the departure has a potentially harmful effect upon the Nation’s conduct of a war. The Commander in Chief and his subordinates had every reason to expect that the internment of combatants at Guantanamo Bay would not have the consequence of bringing the cumbersome machinery of our domestic courts into military affairs. Congress is in session. If it wished to change federal judges’ habeas jurisdiction from what this Court had previously held that to be, it could have done so. And it could have done so by intelligent revision of the statute,7 instead of by today’s clumsy, countertextual reinterpretation that confers upon wartime prisoners greater habeas rights than domestic detainees. The latter must challenge their present physical confinement in the district of their confinement, see Rumsfeld v. Padilla, ante, whereas under today’s strange holding Guantanamo Bay detainees can petition in any of the 94 federal judicial districts. The fact that extraterritorially located detainees lack the district of detention that the statute requires has been converted from a factor that precludes their ability to bring a petition at all into a factor that frees them to petition wherever they wish–and, as a result, to forum shop. For this Court to create such a monstrous scheme in time of war, and in frustration of our military commanders’ reliance upon clearly stated prior law, is judicial adventurism of the worst sort. I dissent.

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