For Immediate Release
Susan Lehman, (212) 998-6318
Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, (212) 998-6289 or (646) 265-7721
Al-Marri Detention Case Vacated
Major Victor for Rule of Law, But Declines Opportunity to Clarify Law
WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a lower federal court decision
giving the President power to detain indefinitely citizens and legal
residents in the United States. While the Court also declined the
opportunity to clarify the law, and make it clear beyond doubt that the
President has no such domestic lock-up power, today's ruling marks a
major victory for the rule of law.
The Court today dismissed the petition for review of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri,
until now the sole remaining person to be designated and held as an
"enemy combatant" in the continental United States. Since 2006, the
Brennan Center for Justice has represented Mr. al-Marri in two cases
challenging his military detention and unlawful and unconstitutional
conditions of confinement.
Last week, Mr. al-Marri was charged with a two-count indictment in
Peoria, Illinois. The government then argued to the Supreme Court that
this ended his military custody and rendered his challenge to military
detention moot. Citing the continuing risk of a new designation, the
Brennan Center argued (in a brief here) that the Court should still hear the case and decide this issue of overwhelming national significance.
"We applaud the Supreme Court for vacating a decision that accepted the
extraordinary claim that the President has free-wheeling authority to
detain indefinitely people living in the United States," said Brennan
Center Counsel Emily Berman. "But we are still disappointed that the
court did not take this opportunity to firmly clarify the limits of
detention power. It's up to President Obama now to affirmatively
renounce the domestic detention power claimed by his predecessor," she
The Brennan Center also cautioned that the Supreme Court's decision
today does not alter the Fourth Circuit's 2005 ruling in the case of
U.S. citizen Jose Padilla, also originally detained without criminal
charges in military custody.
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The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. Our work ranges from voting rights to redistricting reform, from access to the courts to presidential power in the fight against terrorism.