Monday, July 03, 2006
Supreme Court rebukes Bush and Gonzales
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, issued June 29, is momentous. Another Branch of government finally informed the Bushites in no uncertain terms that they do not get to make their own laws.
In this decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the military tribunals the Bushites set up to try Guantanamo Bay detainees are illegal. In reaching this conclusion the Court held that the procedures used by the tribunals violate the Geneva Conventions, that the Geneva Conventions are binding, that the tribunals are not authorized by any act of Congress, that the "war" against al Queda does not give the Executive Branch a special privilege to upset the Constitutional balance of power between the president and the Congress, and that in the absence of express Congressional authorization the Executive Branch does not have the power to establish these tribunals.
The decision is a reaffirmation of the Constitutional balance of power between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, and serves as a direct rebuke of the "unitary executive" theory espoused by George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzales. The Court has now made it clear that the "war on terror" does not elevate the president above the law or above the Constitution. This sentence in the final paragraph of Justice John Paul Stephens' 73-page opinion sums it up neatly: "But in undertaking to try Hamdan and subject him to criminal punishment, the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in this jurisdiction."
The Justices' votes in the case split 5-3. Justice Stephens wrote the opinion of the Court on behalf of himself and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Souter and Ginsburg. Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito dissented. Chief Justice Roberts recused himself because he previously ruled on the case as a judge of a lower court before joining the Supreme Court. Unless further Bush appointments to the Court lead to it being overruled, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld is one of the most important decisions of the United States Supreme Court in many years. The Court has given the Constitution a little breathing room. But the judiciary can only do so much, and it remains up to we the people to keep her breathing.
posted by snarko! at 2:59 PM
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