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Breaking: SCOTUS Remands Rasul Back to DC Circuit

The SCOTUS remanded the Rasul v. Myers case back to the DC Circuit this morning. PDF of the lower court’s initial ruling here. PDF of the SCOTUS rulings is here, and their ruling on Rasul says:

The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. The judgment is vacated and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for further consideration in light of Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. ___ (2008).

That they base the ruling on the precedent set by Boumediene makes it all the more intriguing. Looks like there is a pattern building of the Court not buying the Bush Administration’s tap dancing on human rights.

A remand happens where the higher court sees an error in legal analysis, incomplete fact-finding or some other material issue in lower court proceedings. Or, in this case, where SCOTUS has declared detainees to be people who should have access to the courts, as in Boumediene, and finds that the lower court tried to end-run that analysis. This is the SCOTUS way of saying, "no, you don’t."

The Center For Constitutional Rights, who have been working on this case for quite some time, had this to say:

In Rasul v. Myers, the first case to challenge torture and violations of religious freedom at Guantánamo, the U.S. Supreme Court today granted certiorari, vacated the underlying opinion and remanded the case for reconsideration in light of its opinion in Boumediene v. Bush, which earlier this year recognized the constitutional right of Guantanamo detainees to challenge detention through habeas corpus….

The suit alleged that the detainees’ treatment was part of a systematic plan to “break detainees.” Although the Defense Department denounced the allegations as Al Qaeda disinformation, documents released last week by the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmed that Rumsfeld and senior generals in fact carefully orchestrated the torture and abuse techniques at Guantanamo as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision issued in January 2008, some five months before the Supreme Court’s opinion last term in Boumediene, the Court of Appeals found that there was no right not to be tortured because, in their view, Guantanamo detainees had no constitutional rights. The Court of Appeals also held that torture was foreseeable in the context of interrogation and was within the scope of employment of government officials. With respect to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which protects all “persons” in the exercise of their religion, the Court of Appeals held that Guantanamo detainees are not “persons.”

Judge Janice Rogers Brown issued a concurrence noting that the ruling left the Court of Appeals “with the unfortunate and quite dubious distinction of being the only court to declare those held at Guantanamo are not ‘persons.’ This is a most regrettable holding in a case where plaintiffs have alleged high-level U.S. government officials treated them as less than human.”

“It is an important step that the Supreme Court would reach out and vacate an opinion that denied rights that are fundamental to human dignity,” said Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which was co-counsel in the case. “We are hopeful that with the Supreme Court’s clear signal, these critical rights of detainees to live without torture and to practice their religion will be affirmed and that government officials who implemented these unconstitutional and immoral policies will be held accountable.”

Yet another loss for the Bush Administration on both the merits and the law. You’d think they’d eventually realize that they are just plain wrong, wouldn’t you? SCOTUSblog has links to pertinent filings in the case.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com