The Bush administration notified federal trial judges in Washington that it would soon ask them to dismiss all lawsuits brought by prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, challenging their detentions, Justice Department officials said Tuesday.
The action means that the administration is moving swiftly to take advantage of an amendment to the military bill that President Bush signed into law last Friday. The amendment strips federal courts from hearing habeas corpus petitions from Guantánamo detainees.
Lewis tells us this action is legal because "…the Constitution allows Congress to define the scope of jurisdiction for all federal courts below the Supreme Court."
I'm not sure where Lewis got this piece of legal interpretation. Article I of the Constitution empowers Congress "To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court." In contemporary times, "constitute" means "form or compose." I suppose that in the act of forming or composing an inferior court, Congress would define its legislation, but does that mean it can change a court's jurisdiction to suit the whims of the executive department?
It seems that a better legal justification for passing this sort of legislation would be the legislature's constitutional power to suspend "the privilege of the write of habeas corpus" unless "when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."
Of course, we might well quibble over whether America faces a rebellion or an invasion, but I like using congressional power to suspend habeas corpus than interpreting an inferred power to gerrymander an established court's jurisdiction.
I'll be interested to see the actual wording of the amendment to the defense bill.
A chief sponsor of the habeas corpus amendment is Senator Lindsey Graham (R South Carolina.) Why is it that every time Congress kowtows to the administration, Graham seems to be one of the ringleaders?
One can't help but wonder to what extent the habeas corpus amendment was part of a Senate dope deal: McCain could have his torture amendment if he'd back down on giving the GITMO detainees access to due civilian courts.