Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dear Supreme Court,

Two letters were sent to the Clerk of the Supreme Court (I felt silly for never considering that the Supreme Court had a Clerk of Court until this point, but now that I'm educated, it makes sense and sounds like a pretty sweet gig) regarding the case of Kiyemba v. Obama (I'm not going to remind you what this case is about because 75% of my posts for the past month or two have to do with it). The first letter was from Solicitor General Elena Kagan and it dealt with a newly signed bill that says that the U.S. can't use money from the bill to transfer prisoners from Gitmo to the United States, and essentially encouraging the Court not to hear the case. I assume that what they are saying that the Court shouldn't hear the case because even if they decide that the prisoners can be released into the U.S., the prisoners won't be able to get here because the federal government can't use money to get them here (this is an assumption because there really isn't any explanation of the government's stance in the letter). In response to Kagan's letter, a letter was sent on behalf of the Kiyemba petitioners' counsel to encourage the Court to ignore the government's letter and agree to hear the case. The petitioners' letter says that this case deals with the interpretation of the basic constitutional right of habeas corpus and that the impact of the new act would amount to unconstitutional suspension of habeas.

Voodoo's verdict on this one: Agree with petitioners.

This seems like a very bizarre and a "grasping at straws"-like argument from the government. I understand the government's fear that the Court will hear this case and find that detainees at Gitmo who are successful on their habeas petitions are entitled to release in the United States. I understand that, but I don't see how this new law can be a constitutional check on habeas rights in any way. This is essentially a "purse strings" argument by the government, which means that the government is attempting to control the outcome of something by using its power to spend money. This kind of power is constitutional and the federal government does it alot (it is why the drinking age in every U.S. state is 21); however, I can't conceive of a convincing argument that the government can use this power to overcome a constitutionally guaranteed right like habeas corpus.

I guess we will find out soon enough whether this has any effect because the Court was supposed to hold a conference today to decide whether or not to grant cert in Kiyemba.

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