Busy decision day at the Court

Today, in one of the busiest decisions days in recent history at the Supreme Court, the justices dealt another blow to the Bush administration, ruling 5-4 that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 violates the habeas corpus rights of foreign detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, and that the detainees have the right to challenge their detention in U.S. Courts.

The decision in the consolidated cases of Boumediene v. Bush and Al-Odah v. U.S. was split down the Court’s ideological lines, with Justice Anthony Kennedy once again providing the crucial swing vote. Kennedy authored the opinion.

In a related opinion in the joint cases of Munaf v. Geren and Geren v. Omar, the Court held that federal courts have jurisdiction over habeas claims of U.S. citizens detained by American forces in Iraq, but that federal courts cannot use that authority to prevent the transfer of American citizens to Iraqi authorities.

In Irizarry v. U.S. the Court held that a judge need not give advance notice to parties before imposing a criminal sentence that goes outside of the federal sentencing guidelines. In this 5-4 decision it was Justice John Paul Stevens who provided the crucial fifth vote, penning the opinion joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, while Kennedy joined in the dissent.

In Republic of the Philippines v. Pimentel, the Court held that parties holding assets for sought to pay human rights victims of former Republic of the Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos have standing to move to dismiss the action or to seek certiorari from the Supreme Court to consider other aspects of the case.

The Court also held in Taylor v. Strugell that a claim under the Freedom of Information Act is not precluded by the doctrine of “virtual representation” when another party had made the identical request and it was denied.

Today’s rulings bring the number of outstanding cases to be decided by the Court’s last session on June 23 to 17. Those remaining cases include the hotly anticipated rulings on the D.C. handgun ban, capital punishment for child rape, and punitive damages in the Exxon Valdez oil spill case.


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