Padilla Loses … For Now

Padilla loses on what will to many seem to be a technicality: his lawyer filed in New York when he should have filed in Charleston, SC. The majority does not reach the merits.

That is consistent with long-standing rules of habeas jurisdiction, but it's a darn shame the Court couldn't find it in itself to go the merits when they are so clear; the majoritydoesn't consider this case exceptional enough for an exception to the “custodian” rule, while the dissenters do.

Two of the five justices in the majority write a concurrence noting that if the government had been moving the detainee around to make jurisdiction hard, they would make an exception, but that this isn't that case — he's been stationary.

The appropriate district court will now have consider Padillia's case in light of the ruling in Hamdi, which ought to put him in a better position than he was the last time his case went to district court.

Four justices dissent, reaching the merits. More when I've read it all.

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4 Responses to Padilla Loses … For Now

  1. I’m not terribly impressed with the bright line rule the majority expresses. The difference in properly filing in habeas in New York and South Carolina was two days. Of course, you might excuse the lawyer representing Padilla from filing in the wrong place since the government never gave any notice that they were releasing Padilla from law enforcement custody and then transferring him to military custody in South Carolina. You would think this would count as one of the many exceptions that can be made to habeas jurisdiction. But, nope, this is just a “simple challenge to physical custody.”

  2. Evelyn Blaine says:

    I haven’t read all the decisions carefully, but I’m still really having trouble fitting the jurisdictional analysis in Padilla with that in Rasul. I mean, it’s always painful to find oneself agreeing with Scalia, but the fact that “domestic detainees … must challenge their present physical confinement in the district of their confinement, whereas … Guantanamo Bay detainees can petition in any of the 94 federal judicial districts” really is a “strange holding” (dissent, slip op., at 20). I can only assume it’s the product of some very bizzare horse trading among the Justices. On the whole I guess it’s been a pretty good day: presumably if Padilla files for habeas in the right jurisdiction, the 4 dissenters + Scalia (reasoning as in Hamdi) will mean that the government will be forced to charge him or let him go. And the outcomes of the other two cases were better than I had expected, although I think O’Connor’s reading of the authorization resolution against 28 USC 2241 is nuts, and the due process requirement set out in the latter part has a lot of holes. But I’m still struck by how odd it all is — a punt on Padilla on very debatable grounds, coupled with everything else? And Scalia suddenly channelling Ex parte Milligan and calling Quirin a mistake (but for US citizens only)?! Good God. I think I need a drink.

  3. kim says:

    I’ve got in to the habit of looking at both as well scotus blog when it comes to these decisions. I thought you’d be interested in what they had to say vis a vis Hamdi and Padilla:

    The plurality goes on to emphasize, however, that the detention must be “to prevent a combatant’s return to the battlefield,” which the plurality views as “a fundamental incident of waging war.” This means that Hamdi can be held, the plurality concludes, not until the end of the “war on terror,” which the plurality acknowledges may not come in Hamdi’s lifetime, but only until the end of the “active combat operations in Afghanistan.” And here’s the key sentence: “Certainly, we agree that indefinite detention for the purpose of interrogation is not authorized.”

    This should mean that Padilla’s detention — which the Government acknowledges is principally for the purpose of interrogation — likewise is not authorized. Even if Justice O’Connor’s opinion might not conclusively dictate that result, there are (at least) five votes for it: the four dissenters in Hamdi, as well as Justice Breyer, who joins the Stevens dissent in Padilla.

  4. Geek, Esq. says:

    Padilla is the big winner.

    We have the four votes that would spring him in his opinion, plus Scalia saying he would do the same (were he to consider the merits) in Hamdi.

    4+1=a complete invalidation of the Bush approach to Padilla.

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