Monday, April 03, 2006

Supreme Court Refuses to Review Padilla Case

This is disgusting. From the Washington Post:

A divided Supreme Court handed the Bush administration a significant victory today when it decided not to review, for now, the federal government's powers to detain U.S. citizens as enemy combatants.

The court, with three dissenters, acted in the case of Jose Padilla, who was held for more than three years in a military brig as an alleged "dirty bomber" after he was seized by authorities in Chicago.

Because the government recently transferred Padilla to a regular prison and charged him with conventional crimes, the detention issue is now "hypothetical," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote, taking the unusual step of explaining the court's reasons for avoiding the matter.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in dissent, said the case was of "profound importance" to the nation and should have been resolved a long time ago.

It appears that the court has decided not to hear Pdilla's case, since the White House decided to transfer Padilla from a military prison to a civilian prison and charge him with a crime. Talk about giving a break to the Bush administration. Continuing with the background:

The saga of Padilla began with his arrest in Chicago in 2002 for allegedly plotting to detonate a radiological device. Padilla was locked up in a military brig for three years and denied access to a lawyer until the administration, under pressure from the courts, finally relented.

His lawyers appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which rejected his argument that his confinement without trial was unconstitutional. That opinion was written by J. Michael Luttig, a conservative judge often mentioned as a possible Bush administration Supreme Court appointee.

As Padilla pursued his case to the Supreme Court, the administration abruptly changed course, charging him not with being the "dirty bomber," but with being part of a conspiracy to send money overseas for violent purposes. The administration then had him moved to a federal detention center in Miami and asked the Supreme Court to declare the case moot.

In reaction, the 4th Circuit, with Luttig again writing, castigated the government for attempting to dodge what might have been an unfavorable Supreme Court ruling.

While the action today does not resolve the critical underlying issue of the government's detention powers, it leaves intact the 4th Circuit ruling.

That is the problem right there. The administration knows that they cannot simply throw an American citizen into jail indefinitely without due process. They knew that if Padilla's case ever came up to the Supreme Court, it would have been thrown out. So the administration has been playing legal "footsies," in shifting their legal arguments regarding Padilla's case, moving the case to the 4th Circuit so that their star conservative judge Luttig can maintain the administration's unconstitutional powers, and now shifting the case to a civilian court and charging Padilla with a crime when it appeared the case would go to the Supreme Court. This is a delaying tactic--at least until the Bush White House can get a couple more hard-lined conservatives on to the Supreme Court. The Bush administration had gotten a favorable ruling from Luttig and the 4th Circuit, the ruling does not address the underlying issue of the government's ability to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely as enemy combatants. The only way for the Bush White House to cement this goal is to continue to pack the Supreme Court with hard-lined conservatives, who would accept this administration's argument.

Luttig to the Supreme Court anyone?

No comments: