Court Rules for Detainee

On the heels of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Boumediene habeas case, the D.C.  Circuit Court has ruled that a Chinese Muslim was wrongly designated an enemy combatant by the U.S. government. According to, Hazaifa Parhat was detained after being accused of participating in a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan around September 11, 2001. The D.C. Circuit’s ruling is classified, but they issued a one page release. The Parhat decision also relied on the Boumediene decision, which gives Parhat the chance to file for immediate release from Guantanamo. The full report is at:

Newspaper Articles Cite HALT Report

A Judicial Accountability Report Card recently issued by the legal reform group HALT has been cited in a Chattanooga Times Free Press article describing Tennessee’s relatively poor showing.

The same report was also cited in a Birmingham News article regarding the “D+” that Alabama received.

The Judicial Accountability Report Card grades each state based on transparency, financial disclosure and other factors, culminating in an overall grade for each state. The state of Washington was ranked number one, receiving a “B” grade, while Mississippi was ranked last, with an “F.”

Judge, Lawyers Meet on Detainee Cases

Faced with questions on how to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s Boumediene decision, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., held the first of a series of meetings with lawyers involved in Guantanamo detainee cases.

The meeting, called by Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth, is described in a Reuters report

For more on the response to Boumediene, see Rita C. Aguilar’s report in Justice at Stake’s “Eyes on Justice newsletter.  

 To learn more about the federal courts and the fight against terrorists, download the Justice at Stake  report: “Courting Danger: How the War on Terror Has Sapped the Power of Our Courts to Protect Our Constitutional Liberties.”  


More Merit Selection News

Rich Robinson, executive director of Justice at Stake partner group the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, will be speaking at a forum this evening along with Michigan State Supreme Court Justice Marylin Kelly. The purpose of the forum will be to discuss “Threats to a fair, open, and independent Supreme Court.” The forum comes at a time when Michigan’s supreme court ranks last amongst all states in partisan independence according to a University of Chicago report. Please, come out and support our partner group, and if you do attend come back to this blog and comment on the forum.

Elsewhere, interesting developments are taking place in Minnesota. The state’s new Chief Justice, Eric J. Magnuson, says he favors Merit Selection for selecting Minnesota judges. Magnuson favors merit selection because he wants to prevent, Well-heeled special interests attempting to manipulate the judicial process.” Magnuson also states, “Perceptions of fairness, equity and access I think will be dramatically undermined if the public’s confidence erodes and it only takes one big campaign to do that.” We at Gavel Grab will keep you up to date with what is taking place in Minnesota.

While on the federal level, it appears that their will be a compromise on the FISA/Telecoms immunity struggle. How do you all feel about this potential compromise? Feel free to respond.

Boumediene, in the Justices' Words

Commentary continues on last week’s Supreme Court ruling in the Boumediene habeas case, but it’s worth taking a moment to review some of the central remarks of the justices themselves.

Rita C. Aguilar, Justice at Stake’s director of federal courts programs  and legislative counsel, identified three quotes from Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion that address the role of the Constitution in the fight against terrorists.

“The Laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.  Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be part of that framework, a part of that law.” [Page 70, majority opinion]. 

Security subsists, too, in fidelity to freedom’s first principles. Chief among these are freedom from arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by adherence to the separation of powers. It is from these principles that the judicial authority to consider petitions for habeas corpus relief derives.” [Page 8, syllabus]

Our opinion does not undermine the Executive’s powers as Commander in Chief. On the contrary, the exercise of those powers is vindicated, not eroded, when confirmed by the Judicial Branch. Within the Constitution’s separation-of-powers structure, few exercises of judicial power are as legitimate or as necessary as the responsibility to hear challenges to the authority of the Executive to imprison a person.[Page 69, majority opinion]

For the full Supreme Court opinion, click here. For Justice at Stake’s comment on the Boumediene case, click here. You can also download Justice at Stake’s report, “Courting Danger: How the War on Terror has Sapped the Power of Our Courts to Protect Our Constitutional Liberties.”