Thursday, June 29, 2006

[Supreme Court]

Supremes to Bush: You Ain't the King of Us.

This is rather extraordinary: the Supreme Court actually limited some of Bush's power today. (Most of what follows is stolen from a news post at BlueOregon--I'll have some thoughts in a couple hours.)

In a 5-3 decision, the court said the trials were not authorized under U.S. law or the Geneva Conventions. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the opinion in the case, called Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. recused himself from the case.

But wait!--there may be broader implications arising from the ruling about how the US must treat detainees (via Heather Lloyd at SCOTUSblog):

More importantly, the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva aplies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda.... This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques, because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely," and that "[t]o this end," certain specified acts "are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever"—including "cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." This standard, not limited to the restrictions of the due process clause, is much more restrictive than even the McCain Amendment.

But wait wait!--Bush was personally singled out for his power grab.

The Court's conclusion, Breyer said, "ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the Executive a 'blank check.'...Indeed, Congress has denied the President the legislative auhority to create military commissions of the kind at issue here. Nothing prevents the President from returning to Congress tgo seek the authority he believes necessary." The Breyer opinion included a mini-lecture on the virtue of presidential consultation with Congress, at least "where, as here, no emergency prevents" such consultation. "The Constitution places its faith in those democratic means. Our Court today simply does the same."

The radical three (Alito, Scalia, and Thomas) were in dissent.

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