Supreme Court Vacates Fourth Circuit’s Ruling on Al-Marri

07scotus_190 This week, the Supreme Court delivered a decision was as brief as it was significant. The Court vacated the recent ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that the President can detain Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar who was lawfully in the United States as a student when he was arrested in 2001. The ruling will relieve the Obama Administration of the necessity of having to choose whether to support or oppose the Bush Administration’s arguments.

In a one-paragraph ruling the Court negates one of the few big wins of the Bush Administration and rejects the Fourth Circuit’s extreme ruling on presidential authority.

To the credit of the Obama Administration, the government has now decided to move al-Marri into the federal system to face conventional criminal charges with full rights of a defendant. This makes the matter moot before the Supreme Court. It was a decision that the Obama Administration desperately wanted. If the Court had proceeded to hear the case, Obama would have had to either embrace the argument of the Bush Administration or publicly reject it. Obama recently has been criticized for continuing some of the Bush Administration’s most controversial positions in the national security area, including threatening a federal court that it would remove a piece evidence from a case after the court rejected its legal arguments. It is an unprecedented claim and is an effort to keep the court from reviewing a document that the media has reported is connected to the NSA surveillance program. It is a perfectly thuggish threat and one that even the Bush Administration never carried out.

For the full story, click here.

10 thoughts on “Supreme Court Vacates Fourth Circuit’s Ruling on Al-Marri”

  1. I agree with LarryE’s comments. The resolution of the litigation in the manner in which it occurred provides no answers to anything. I am hoping that the Obama administration is simply attempting to temporarily avoid certain legal battles for purely strategic reasons, as it did in the Karl Rove subpoena issue, for example. We’ll see.

  2. I have to offer a dissent to the line “To the credit of the Obama Administration, the government has now decided to move al-Marri into the federal system.”

    I don’t know that this is to the “credit” of the administration as this is for practical purposes identical to what was done with/to Jose Padilla: Drag it out until essentially the last minute before the Supreme Court was to rule, then switch him to the federal justice system and have the case declared moot, thus avoiding a final decision and leaving open the possibility of continuing the practice.

    In Padilla’s case, it was predicted based on recent prior cases that the Court would rule against the Bush team and so it was believed that’s why the switch happened. It being the same Court now, I don’t see why the prediction would be different.

    It seems to me what would have really been to the credit of the Obama administration would be to allow the case to continue and yes, publicly reject the Bush administration’s arguments. The fact that it didn’t makes me wonder if Obama and his team want to continue Bush’s policies or if they don’t have control of the DOJ structure and things are operating on, if you will, autopilot set by the prior administration. While the latter is preferable because it suggests something that can be corrected over time, neither of those options is pleasant.

  3. Ah yes, the Daily Telegraph, source of Tory fantasies and hallucinations for years.

  4. United State’s Obama fumbled Brown visit because he’s in over his head

    Daily Telegraph 3/7/09

    Insulting Gordon Brown during the British prime minister’s visit this week by ignoring protocol and cheaping out on the traditional gift exchange, the UK media has erupted in outrage. The Obama White House has now started to recognize the firestorm the new President created with our closest ally, and wants to assure the Brits that he meant no disrespect.

    Instead, Obama apparently wants to assure them that he’s simply in over his head and floundering:

    Sources close to the White House say Mr Obama and his staff have been “overwhelmed” by the economic meltdown and have voiced concerns that the new president is not getting enough rest.
    British officials, meanwhile, admit that the White House and US State Department staff were utterly bemused by complaints that the Prime Minister should have been granted full-blown press conference and a formal dinner, as has been customary. They concede that Obama aides seemed unfamiliar with the expectations that surround a major visit by a British prime minister.

    Allies of Mr Obama say his weary appearance in the Oval Office with Mr Brown illustrates the strain he is now under, and the president’s surprise at the sheer volume of business that crosses his desk.

    A well-connected Washington figure, who is close to members of Mr Obama’s inner circle, expressed concern that Mr Obama had failed so far to “even fake an interest in foreign policy”. …
    The American source said: “Obama is overwhelmed. There is a zero sum tension between his ability to attend to the economic issues and his ability to be a proactive sculptor of the national security agenda.

  5. Jill,
    I agree that this issue needs to be resolved and Obama needs to come out and say it out loud that the President does not have the power to usurp the Constitution.

  6. David,

    It’s true the court vacated the one decision and you’re right to point out that the wrong headline barely raised an eyebrow. But what do you think of Glenn’s comment that the power to detain is still there, just by a different mechanism?

  7. Paralell to the shore, everyone…
    …to avoid getting sucked under and swept out to sea!!!

  8. “I guess that’s why Dick the Butcher said, ‘the first thing you do, you kill all the lawyers.'”

    And like everything else he’s got, he stole that line too.

  9. Along the lines of JIll’s comment, did you see Glenn Greenwald’s post regarding the case and the USA Today article on this case? Here’s the first line from today’s USA today:

    “The President has the power to detain people without charge, the Supreme Court decided today…”

    Wow. So much for the “sweet land of liberty!” Thankfully, as Greenwald points out, this represents the paper’s wrong summary rather than the Court’s true decision. Why, however, will hardly anyone who reads that headline even pause to consider the implications? I guess that’s why Dick the Butcher said, “the first thing you do, you kill all the lawyers.”

  10. “While the government did not defend its power to detain Mr. Marri at present, it left open the possibility that he or others might be subject to military detention as enemy combatants in the future. “Any future detention — were that hypothetical possibility ever to occur — would require new consideration under then-existing circumstances and procedure,” the Justice Department told the court in a brief filed Wednesday.”

    The court should have ruled on this. Obama still claims there is a “war on terror” along with everything this entails–a worldwide battlefield and some unlimited executive powers to go with it. I would like to see the underlying legal theories/memos upon which the Obama DOJ is resting its actions. I’m not willing to accept more secrecy on this issue. We have clear evidence of where failure to disclose leaves this nation. While I am of course happy that this particular prisoner will get a fair trial, the underlying miscarriage of justice remains.

    I truly want to see those FISA rulings. The DOJ is fighting tooth and nail to keep them underwraps. I hope they are leaked as this may be the only way we’ll ever see them. Is Obama relying on the data collected from spying justified by these memos? Is he in effect still following them? We deserve to know the truth, NOW.

    Staying quiet got our Consitution overturned. Never Again.

Comments are closed.