I am one of the 450 law professors who signed a statement calling on the Supreme Court to grant review of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (No. 05-184), a case challenging the President’s creation of military commissions to try “unlawful combatants”:
We, the undersigned law professors at many law schools, urge that lawyers, jurists, and the public take every opportunity to reassert the rule of law, to reiterate America’s constitutional commitments, and to insist on humane treatment that gives each person a fair opportunity to be heard before impartial tribunals, not ones controlled by the executive.
Thanks are due to to Bruce Ackerman (Yale), David Cole (Georgetown), Rosa Ehrenreich Brooks (Virginia), Deena Hurwitz (Virginia), and Judith Resnik (Yale) for organizing the letter.
Although I completely agree with the text of the statement, I do feel ever so slightly odd about this project because letters like this shouldn’t actually influence what the Supreme Court does. And, I suspect, they don’t actually influence it either. So the project is arguably in poor taste, and probably futile. But I do believe that the issue is of enormous importance … and what else can we do?
It seems legitimate for legal minds in the university to speak out on what cases are important enough to be tried by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, who make their decisions based on various sources including arguments made by various members of the legal profession, or some member(s), might actually pay attention. They might not … but that never stopped people like yourself from voicing thier opinion in public fora on top legal matters in the past.
Overall, the “poor taste” argument, seems a bit strange too. Purely symbolic, maybe. But, unless that many people actually are tricked into thinking such things mean more than they do (I doubt it), I don’t see it as in bad taste.
I to agree with Joe. I mean, how insulated from from discourse do we imagine (or even want) the justices to be? It’s as if you expect the justices to live in a world of pure abstract reason where the sounds and smells of the real world never penetrate.
I wouldn’t be so sour on the idea that a letter from law professors can influence the Supreme Court. Some of the most controversial cases have been acknowledged to have been influenced by unusual sources, from the military’s support for Affirmative Action in Grutter v. Bollinger to Nobel Laureates’ opposition to creation “science” in Edwards v. Aguillard. Who knows what sources have had an unacknowledged effect on the Court.
Further, even if the Court completely ignores the letter, it still serves a larger and more important purpose for lawyers, law students, and non-lawyers. We must never forget that it is a Constitution we are expounding; if its meaning is not always in trade in the marketplace of ideas, it will have none.
Whether or not this petition affects the Court’s thinking, it shows the world what you’re thinking. Someday, the question of your support may arise, and it’s good to be on the side of justice.