High court to hear Guantanamo detainee cases
Justices reverse course, agree to review issue of challenging confinement
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court, reversing course, agreed Friday to review whether Guantanamo Bay detainees may go to federal court to challenge their indefinite confinement.
The action, announced without comment along with other end-of-term orders, is a setback for the Bush administration. It had argued that a new law strips courts of their jurisdiction to hear detainee cases.
In April, the court turned down an identical request, although several justices indicated they could be persuaded otherwise.The move is highly unusual.
The court did not indicate what changed the justices’ minds about considering the issue. But last week, lawyers for the detainees filed a statement from a military lawyer in which he desribed the inadequacy of the process the administration has put forward as an alternative to a full-blown review by civilian courts.
In February, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld a key provision of a law the Bush administration pushed through Congress last year stripping federal courts of their ability to hear the detainees’ challenges to their confinement.
On April 2, the Supreme denied the detainees’ request to review the February appeals court ruling.
The detainees then petitioned the court to reconsider its denial.
Dismissing the petitions would be “a profound deprivation” of the prisoners’ right to speedy court review, lawyers for the detainees said.
The administration asked that the detainees’ Supreme Court petitions be thrown out.