The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Congress did not take away the Court's authority to rule on the military commissions' validity, and then went ahead to rule that President Bush did not have authority to set up the tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and found the "military commissions" illegal under both military justice law and the Geneva Convention. The vote was 5-3, with the Chief Justice not taking part.
I don't have the text of the opinions yet. I'll have more soon.
UPDATE: Here's the opinion. Here's a good summary in the Washington Post. I found this especially interesting:
For the first time in his 15-year tenure on the court, Thomas took the unusual step of reading part of his dissenting opinion from the bench. The court's willingness "to second-guess the determination of the political branches that these conspirators must be brought to justice is both unprecedented and dangerous," he said.And let me just say something about the interpretation of the jurisdiction statute. I know a lot of readers are finding Justice Scalia's interpretation persuasive:
In a dissenting opinion, Scalia pointed to congressional enactment on Dec. 30, 2005, of the Detainee Treatment Act, which provides that as of that date, "no court, justice or judge" shall have jurisdiction to consider an application by a Guantanamo detainee for habeas corpus, challenging his detention.But the majority's straining to read the DTA to preserve jurisdiction does not at all surprise me (a federal jurisdiction scholar). It is standard practice for the Court to read statutes that purport to cut back jurisdiction in a way that is defensive of the role of the judiciary. Justice Stevens's opinion discusses some of those cases. He doesn't even reach the question of whether the Constitution permits the cut back. This is an issue that he avoids -- in the style of many other cases.
In a concurring opinion, Breyer strongly disputed the dissenters' assertion that today's ruling would, as Thomas wrote, "sorely hamper the president's ability to defeat a new and deadly enemy."And he'd better get crashingly clear statutory language.
"The Court's conclusion ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the Executive a 'blank check,' Breyer wrote. "Indeed, Congress has denied the president the legislative authority to create military commissions of the kind at issue here. Nothing prevents the president from returning to Congress to seek the authority he believes necessary."
IN THE COMMENTS: Simon says Thomas had read dissents from the bench before. He cites Stenberg v. Carhart, the "partial birth" abortion case. I looked up news reports of the time and found this in the Washington Post, June 29, 2000, Pg. 9A ("Abortion debate will continue to rage," by Joan Biskupic):
The sensitivity of the abortion issue was evident in the court's outpouring of opinions in the Nebraska case, Stenberg vs. Carhart. Of the nine justices, only David Souter did not write an opinion. Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas were moved to read portions of their angry dissents in the Nebraska and Colorado cases from the mahogany bench.It's strange for the WaPo to have made that mistake today. You'd think you'd definitely check before saying something happened "[f]or the first time."
AFTERTHOUGHT: It will be interesting to see how Hamdan plays out in the political arena. The case invites more legislation, and members of both parties have got to be furiously cooking up proposals. I suspect that those who are most disappointed by the outcome of the case have the most political advantage looking toward the next few months.