Friday, March 22, 2013
The Obama Administration has given us just a glimpse of its legal analysis authorizing its use of drone attacks on U.S. citizens in a foreign country outside the zone of active hostilities. And that mere glimpse contains a telling, and deeply troubling, reference to an earlier episode, Nixon's bombing of Cambodia, writes Professor Mary Dudziak (Emory), author of War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences, in the NYT.
Dudziak points to a citation to a 1970 speech by Department of State Legal Adviser John R. Stevenson in the recently released "white paper" setting out the administration's legal justification for drone attacks. In that speech, Stevenson argued that the U.S. had authority to take military action in Cambodia in self-defense against North Vietnamese attacks from that country. Dudziak explains:
Since 1965, "the territory of Cambodia has been used by North Vietnam as a base of military operations," [Stevenson] told the New York City Bar Association. "It long ago reached a level that would have justified us in taking appropriate measures of self-defense on the territory of Cambodia. However, except for scattered instances of returning fire across the border, we refrained until April from taking such action in Cambodia."
But there was a problem:
In fact, Nixon had begun his secret bombing of Cambodia more than a year earlier. (It is not clear whether Mr. Stevenson knew this.) So the Obama administration's lawyers have cited a statement that was patently false.
Here's the full paragraph from page 4 of the white paper:
The Department has not found any authority for the proposition that when one of the parties to an armed conflict plans and executes operations from a base in a new nation, an operation to engage the enemy in that location cannot be part of the original armed conflict, and thus subject to the laws of war governing that conflict, unless the hostilities become sufficiently intense and protracted in the new location. That does not appear to be the rule of the historical practice, for example, even in a traditional international conflict [i.e., a conflict between nations]. See John R. Stevenson, Legal Adviser, Department of State, United States Military Action in Cambodia: Questions of International Law, Address before the Hammarskjold Forum of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (May 28, 1970), in 3 The Vietnam War and International Law: The Widening Context 23, 28-30 (Richard A. Falk, ed. 1972) (arguing that in an international armed conflict, if a neutral state has been unable for any reason to prevent violations of its neutrality by the troops of one belligerent using its territory as a base of operations, the other belligerent has historically been justified in attacking those enemy forces in that state). Particularly in a non-international armed conflict, where terrorist organizations may move their base of operations from one country to another, the determination of whether a particular operation would be part of an ongoing armed conflict would require consideration of the particular facts and circumstances in each case, including the fact that transnational non-state organizations such as al-Qa'ida have no single site serving as their base of operations. [Citation omitted.]
Dudziak argues that the citation to Nixon's bombing of Cambodia illustrates a problem, instead of providing a precedent:
The Cambodia bombing, far from providing a valuable precedent for today's counterterrorism campaign, illustrates the trouble with secrecy: It doesn't work. If Nixon had gone to Congress or announced the plan publicly, the historian Jeffrey P. Kimball has written, "there would have been an uproad." But disclosure was ultimately forced upon him when he decided to send ground troops into Cambodia. A new wave of giant antiwar protests erupted, and Nixon's ability to take further aggressive action became infeasible.
She writes that we expect more, and deserve more, of President Obama.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Zimbabweans voted overwhelmingly this weekend to approve a new draft constitution. Ninety-five percent of voters cast a ballot in favor, according to the Washington Post and others. We posted earlier here.
Now the document goes to Parliament and the president for approval and signature--ceremonial steps that'll take another 30 days or so.
The text is available here, at COPAC's web-site.
Monday, January 21, 2013
The Court granted certiorari Friday in Bond v. United States - - - again.
Recall that the first time the Court heard Carol Anne Bond's case, it held that she did indeed have standing to assert a Tenth Amendment argument against her charge for violating 18 U.S.C. § 229(a), enacted by Congress to implement the United States’ treaty obligations under an international arms-control agreement, the Chemical Weapons Convention, that prohibits nation-states from producing, stockpiling, or using chemical weapons. Bond, a biologist, used her expertise to spread injurious chemicals on the property of her former best friend, after learning that the friend was pregnant by Bond’s husband. Although Bond was prosecuted in state court, she continued her campaign against her former friend and she was eventually prosecuted in federal court.
On remand, the Third Circuit held that the Chemical Weapons Convention "falls comfortably within the Treaty Power's traditional subject matter limitation" and thus the implementing Act is "within the constitutional powers of the federal government under the Necessary and Proper Clause and the Treaty Power, unless it somehow goes beyond the Convention." While the Circuit did find the prosecution of Bond puzzling, there was also much puzzlement over the statement in Missouri v. Holland that “[i]f [a] treaty is valid there can be no dispute about the validity of the statute [implementing that treaty] under Article 1, Section 8, as a necessary and proper means to execute the powers of the Government."
It seems the Supreme Court is ready to clarify - - - or attempt to - - - Missouri v. Holland's famous statement.
[image of Methyldichloroarsine via]
Friday, November 30, 2012
The Egyptian Constituent Assembly released its draft constitution early Friday. Here are a few resources:
- The Egypt Independent posted an English translation.
- The BBC has a useful side-by-side comparison of the proposed constitution and the earlier, suspended 1971 constitution.
- Human Rights Watch posted a human rights analysis of key provisions.
- The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Lede blog at the NYT, the Washington Post, and AlJazeera all have reports on developments, including protests against the draft.
The Supreme Constitutional Court is scheduled to take up the legitimacy of the Constituent Assembly on Sunday, although the Court might punt on that question while other tribunals rule on the legality of President Morsi's decree shielding his own decisions and decisions of the Assembly from the judiciary. If Mosri's decree is unconstitutional, then the Court could take up the legitimacy of the Assembly. In the meantime, President Morsi vowed to put the draft to a vote.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
However fundamental, the debate over the Constitution misses a problem that may well be even more important in American life. Many of the most significant judicial decisions do not involve the Constitution at all. Most people never hear about those decisions. But they determine the fate of countless regulations, issued by federal agencies, that are indispensable to implementing important laws—including those designed to reform the health care system, promote financial stability, protect consumers, ensure clean air and water, protect civil rights, keep the food supply safe, reduce deaths from tobacco, promote energy efficiency, maintain safe workplaces, and much more.
He proposes the following "simple way to test whether political convictions matter in legal disputes over regulations":
Ask just two questions. (1) Is the regulation being challenged by industry or instead by a public interest group? (2) How many of the three judges were appointed by a Republican president and how many by a Democratic president?
Though writing from a particular partisan viewpoint - - - Sunstein was Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs from 2009 to 2012 - - - his argument is certainly worth a read, and worth trying to refute with counter-examples.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
in the unlikely event that bin Laden surrendered, Obama saw an opportunity to resurrect the idea of a criminal trial, which Attorney General Eric Holder had planned for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. This time, the president tells Bowden, he was prepared to bring bin Laden back and put him on trial in a federal court. “We worked through the legal and political issues that would have been involved, and Congress and the desire to send him to Guantánamo, and to not try him, and Article III.” Obama continues: “I mean, we had worked through a whole bunch of those scenarios. But, frankly, my belief was if we had captured him, that I would be in a pretty strong position, politically, here, to argue that displaying due process and rule of law would be our best weapon against al-Qaeda, in preventing him from appearing as a martyr.”
Obama's representations, given in an interview with Bowden, present an interesting - - - and perhaps unlikely - - - counterfactual. Over at Lawfare, Wells Bennett observes that "it seems a safe bet that congressional resistance to a civilian prosecution would have been extreme, at least as heated as the resistance to the civilian prosecution of the 9/11 co-conspirators."
October 9, 2012 in Books, Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, Executive Authority, Foreign Affairs, International, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Sunday, May 6, 2012
The Associated Press reported today that a CIA drone strike killed Fahd al-Quso, "a top al-Qaida leader on the FBI's most wanted list for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship." According to the report, al-Quso served time in a Yemeni prison for his role in the bombing and was released in 2007. The CIA carried out the attack with the authorization of the Yemeni government--part of its effort to bring the host country on board with strikes.
The strike comes just a week after President Obama authorized expanded use of drones in Yemen. The new authority allows the government to identify targets based on their "signatures"--those patterns detected through intelligence that indicate that a target is an operative or otherwise poses a threat against U.S. interests--and not just their "personality."
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
The Second Circuit's opinion earlier this month refused to grant en banc review to a panel decision that the so-called prostitution pledge for government AIDS/HIV funding is unconstitutional, Alliance for Open Society International, Inc., Pathfinder International, Global Health Council, InterAction v. United States Agency for International Development.
The denial of en banc review prompted a dissent authored by Judge Cabranes, and joined by Judges Raggi and Livingston, while Judge Rosemary Pooler wrote an opinion concurring in the denial of rehearing en banc.
At issue is a provision of the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (“Leadership Act”), 22 U.S.C. § 7601 et seq., providing:
No funds made available to carry out this chapter, or any amendment made by this chapter, may be used to provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking, except that this subsection shall not apply to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Health Organization, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative or to any United Nations agency.
22 U.S.C. §7631(f). Note that the exceptions were added in the 2004 amendments to the Act, meaning that the act's provision falls most heavily on smaller NGOs.
The crux of the disagreement is whether or not the compelled speech aspect of the required statement makes it distinguishable from Rust v. Sullivan. The Second Circuit panel found this was a vital distinction - - - and indeed, it is a matter that the Court in Rust emphasized. The dissenters, as well as the Sixth Circuit, found that any such distinction is erased by the unconstitutional conditions doctrine which allows the organization to choose whether or not to apply for funds in the first instance.
As Judge Rosemary Pooler noted in her concurring opinion from denial of rehearing en banc, the doctrine is in a complex state of disarray. For those who teach, study, or litigate in this area, reconciling Rust v. Sullivan with Legal Servs. Corp. v. Velazquez, 531 U.S. 533 (2001), can be challenging - - - unless one resorts to easy and cynical canards about the differences between doctors and lawyers, or the Court's solipsistic concern for its own role when conditions are imposed. The "anti-prostitution" pledge cases could be a great vehicle for exploring the complexities, either as a scholarly project or as a class exercise.
The Second Circuit and the Sixth Circuit opinions also provide a circuit conflict, perhaps teeing up the Second Circuit case for Supreme Court review.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
There's quite a bit of confusion and argument about what exactly the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, does. (The Conference Report is here; the relevant Title, Subtitle D, Counterterrorism, begins on page H8436.) On one side, detractors claim that it expands government authority to detain aliens and even U.S. citizens. Glenn Greenwald does a nice job setting out the case at salon.com. On the other side, supporters say that it only codifies the government's authority under existing law. Benjamin Wittes and Bobby Chesney carefully make this argument in their thorough examination at lawfare.
It turns out, both sides are right. In short, the plain language of the NDAA expands detention authority beyond the plain language of the Authorization to Use Military Force, P.L. 107-40, but it only codifies the authority already claimed by President Obama and granted by the D.C. Circuit under the AUMF. Here are some of the highlights:
- Indefinite Detention. Section 1021(c)(1) says that "[t]he disposition of a person under the law of war as described in subsection (a) may include . . . [d]etention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force." (Emphasis added.) This is the definition of indefinite detention. But it's also an authority that President Obama claimed from the early days of the administration. In fact, the definition of a "covered person" in Section 1021(b)(2) almost exactly tracks the administration's proposed definition of a "detainable person" under the AUMF in its March 13, 2009, filing in a Guantanamo habeas case in the D.C. District. (More below.) So while this authority in the NDAA is significant for representing clear congressional support for indefinite detention, and while it's deeply troubling, it also merely reflects the administration's long-standing position.
- Detainable Persons. Section 1021(b)(2) says that the government can detain (indefinitely) "[a] person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces." This is new, and adds to the definition of detainable person under the AUMF (and tracked in Section 1021(b)(1)) that allows detention of "[a] person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occured on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks." Moreover, Section 1022(a) requires military detention for anyone who is "a member of, or part of, al-Qaeda or an associated force that acts in coordination with or pursuant to the direction of al-Qaeda" and anyone who "participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners." (Section 1022 covers a subset of detainable persons in Section 1021. U.S. citizens and resident aliens are excepted from the requirement; more below.) In short, the NDAA authorizes indefinite detention, and in some cases requires military detention, for those who not only participated in the 9/11 attacks or harbored those who did (as under the AUMF), but also for those who currently attack the United States or its partners. But again, this is an authority that the administration claimed from its early days. Thus the NDAA tracks almost exactly the adminsitration's proposed definition of a detainable person in Guantanamo habeas cases. And it seems congruent with the D.C. Circuit's "part of" test--that under the AUMF the government can detain anyone who is "part of forces associated with Al Qaeda or the Taliban." So here, too, the plain language of the NDAA seems to expand authority beyond the AUMF, but it also seems consistent with the government's long-standing position and the courts' interpretation of the government's authority under the AUMF.
- Detainability of U.S. Citizens. Section 1022(b) says that the military detention requirement in Section 1022 does not apply to U.S. citizens and lawful resident aliens for conduct within the United States. This means that the NDAA does not require the military and indefinite detention of U.S. citizens who are "covered persons" under Section 1022(a)(2) (see above), but it also seems to permit such detention of U.S. citizens. The Act is deliberately ambiguous on this point and seems to punt to the courts. But in any event, it doesn't obviously add anything to the administration's position on detention or to what the courts would permit under Hamdi.
- Guantanamo Transfers. Section 1027 unequivocally denies funds for transfers of Guantanamo detainees to the United States. This restriction means that the administration can't transfer detainees for civilian criminal trials. The administration previously objected to this restriction (among others), even threatening a veto over this and other measures in the bill, but apparently dropped its objection.
- Civilian Trials. In addition to the restrictions in Section 1027, which prevent transfers of Guantanamo detainees to the United States for civilian trials (or for any other reason), Section 1029 requires the Attorney General to consult with the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense about civilian trials for anyone held under Sections 1021 and 1022, discussed above.
These provisions in the NDAA represent significant and explicit congressional approval of government detention authority. But they also only represent the administration's long-standing positions, and they're not obviously out of line with the courts' approaches. In short, the codification of these authorities is significant--because it means that Congress is explicitly signing onto them--but they also only represent the creep of authority claimed by the administration and reflected in the courts under the AUMF.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
The Libyan National Transitional Council today declared Libya liberated from the Gaddafi regime and set the country on a path toward multiparty elections and a democratic constitution. Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril told the World Economic Forum yesterday that the NTC will set elections for a transitional national congress within 8 months. The body will draft a new constitution, to be put to Libyans in a referendum, and form an interim government until the first presidential elections are held. For more, check out reports from Al Jazeera, Reuters, allAfrica.com, and the Gulf Times.
Whatever the NTC and the new congress come up with, it'll surely be an improvement over Gadhafi's home-made rambling handbook on governance, the Green Book.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Chief Prosecutor Army Brig. General Mark Martins announced this week that military commission trials at Guantanamo Bay will resume, with changes designed to increase transparency and fairness.
General Martins mentioned three changes. First, there are new restrictions on the use of evidence obtained by torture (although the exception--"in the interest of justice"--may well swallow the rule). Second, relatives of victims will be able to view the proceedings by a video feed in the U.S. And third, the Pentagon set up a new web-site with case information, FAQs for detainees' representatives, case files, and more. (The site even has a "legal system comparison," illustrating in a chart the different features of military commissions, courts martial, and Article III courts.)
First up under the revamped proceedings: Al Nashiri's arraignment on November 9 for his alleged role in bombing the USS Cole and planning attacks on the USS The Sullivans and the MV Limburg.
Al Nashiri's arraignment is on the new web-site's calendar, and his case file is up, with links. But as of today, even the Defense Request for Continuance of Arraignment and the following Order were not available. The link said they were undergoing a security review.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Philip Alston (NYU) recently posted his now-even-more-timely article The CIA and Targeted Killings Beyond Borders late last month on SSRN. In it, Alston argues that there's no effective check on CIA targeted killings, and that this undermines the international rule of law. From the abstract:
The CIA's internal control mechanisms, including its Inspector-General, have had no discernible impact; executive control mechanisms have either not been activated at all or have ignored the issue; congressional oversight has given a "free pass" to the CIA in this area; judicial review has been effectively precluded; and external oversight has been reduced to media coverage which is all too often dependent on information leaked by the CIA itself. As a result, there is no meaningful domestic accountability for a burgeoning program of international killing. This in turn means that the United States cannot possibly satisfy its obligations under international law to ensure accountability for its use of lethal force, either under IHRL or IHL. The result is the steady undermining of the international rule of law, and the setting of legal precedents which will inevitably come back to haunt the United States before long when invoked by other states with highly problematic agendas.
Monday, September 26, 2011
A sharply divided 3-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit ruled last week in a pair of cases that a group of Iraqi citizens could not sue U.S. military contractors in tort for torture in Abu Ghraib prison and other locations throughout Iraq.
The court ruled in Al Shimari v. CACI Int'l and Al Quraishi v. L-3 Services, Inc. that federal interests preempted the plaintiffs' claims and dismissed the cases. But there was no preempting federal statute; instead the court relied on federal "interests" in interrogating detainees on a battlefield. Judge Niemeyer explained in an opinion joined by Judge Shedd:
[W]e too conclude that this case implicates important and uniquely federal interests. The potential liability under state law of military contractors for actions taken in connection with U.S. military operations overseas would similarly affect the availability and costs of using contract workers in conjunction with military operations. In this case, that uniquely federal interest was especially important in view of the recognized shortage of military personnel and the need for assistance in interrogating detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. Not only would potential tort liability against such contractors affect military costs and efficiencies and contractors' availability, it would also present the possibility that military commanders could be hauled into civilian courts for the purpose of evaluating and differentiating between military and contractor decisions. That effort could become extensive if contractor employees and the military worked side by side in questioning detainees under military control, as the complaint alleges in this case. Moreover, such interference with uniquely federal interests would be aggravated by the prison's location within the war zone. Finally, potential liability under state tort law would undermine the flexibility that military necessity requires in determining the methods for gathering intelligence.
. . .
In addition to the specific adverse impacts on the uniquely federal interests of interrogating detainees in foreign battlefields, a broader and perhaps more significant conflict with federal interests would arise from allowing tort law generally to apply to foreign battlefields.
Al Shimari at 8-10. In ruling the plaintiffs' claims preempted, the court followed the lead of the D.C. Circuit in Saleh v. Titan Corp., a 2009 case holding that where a civilian contractor is integrated into combat activities over which the military maintains authority, tort claims against the contractor are preempted.
Judge Neimeyer wrote separately to say that he would have dismissed the case under the political question doctrine and derivative absolute immunity, too.
Judge King wrote a lengthy dissent. Judge King said that the court lacked jurisdiction over this interlocutory appeal, a position he explains in his dissenting opinion in Al Quraishi, and that, if the court had jurisdiction, preemption didn't apply to bar the plaintiffs' claims.
In Al Quraishi, a case with similar facts, the divided panel (Judge King, dissenting) ruled that the court had jurisdiction over the contractor's interlocutory appeal of the district court's denial of its motion to dismiss.
September 26, 2011 in Cases and Case Materials, Foreign Affairs, International, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Preemption, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Castle Rock v. Gonzales, decided by the United States Supreme Court in 2005, stands for the proposition that one does not have a due process right to have a restraining order enforced by law enforcement. In Castle Rock, Ms. Jessica Gonzalez had a restraining order against her husband, but despite the fact that he took their three children without permission and she contacted the police department three times and was essentially told to call back later each time, and Mr. Gonzalez murdered all three children without any police action, the Court found that she did not have any due process rights to have the order enforced.
Confronted with a case such as Castle Rock, students may ask whether there is anything else Ms. Gonzalez could do. The usual answer for ConLawProfs would be no, given that the nation's highest court has rendered its opinion. However, Ms. Gonzalez, now known as Jessica Lenahan, represented by American law professors and students at University of Miami's Human Rights Clinic took her case to an international forum - - - the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
The Commission has just made public its lengthy Report on the matter, finding that the restraining order was the only means available to Jessica Lenahan at the state level to protect herself and her children in a context ofdomestic violence, and the police did not effectively enforce it. The Commission concluded that these failures to protect Lenahan and her daughters constituted a form of discrimination in violation of the American Declaration, since they took place in a context where there has been a historical problem with the enforcement of protection orders; a problem that has disproportionately affected women sincethey constitute the majority of the restraining order holders.
Today, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women "urged the United States Government to reexamine its current policies on dealing with violence against women."
The constitutional effect of such rulings and "urgings" may be limited, but the interrelationship between domestic constitutional law and international human rights is worth surfacing in ConLaw classes.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit ruled Tuesday that a conviction against an Airborne infantryman under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act did not violate separation of powers. The conviction stands.
The case, U.S. v. Green, arises out of a gruesome and horrific multiple rape and multiple murder of Iraqi civilians committed by Green and two colleagues in Iraq. The Army charged Green's colleagues under the UCMJ, but the Army discharged Green (for a personality disorder). The government then charged and convicted him using the MEJA, a law that permits the government to prosecute former members of the military in Article III courts for crimes committed overseas while they were in the military. (The MEJA thus closes a loophole for former military who commit crimes overseas: They can't be charged under the UCMJ, but they can't be charged under U.S. criminal law, either; MEJA allows the government to prosecute. You might ask why the Iraqi authorities couldn't charge Green: Because Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 17 says that coalition forces "shall be immune from the Iraqi legal process.")
Green argued that his conviction was unconstitutional, because MEJA violated the separation of powers and the nondelegation doctrine (among other things). The Sixth Circuit disagreed. It said that MEJA certainly expanded executive branch power, but not at the expense of any other branch. MEJA is no different than, say, any new criminal law that Congress might enact.
The ruling is utterly unremarkable and unsurprising. But the government's position contrasts starkly with its position in the Seventh Circuit's recent decision in Vance v. Rumsfeld. In Vance, the Seventh Circuit ruled that a Bivens claim for overseas torture by U.S. citizens against Donald Rumsfeld can move forward, despite the government's vigorous arguments that separation-of-powers considerations prohibit a Bivens remedy, because courts have no business poking their noses around issues of national security, foreign policy, war-making, and the like. As the Seventh Circuit noted, the government's extreme position in that case would also mean that someone like Green couldn't be on the receiving end of a Bivens claim (even if his victims were U.S. citizens).
The separation-of-powers concern in Vance, of course, was different than in Green. The government argued in Vance that the courts' involvement in such matters intruded upon executive authority. The government had no such concern in Green, apparently: It ran to the courts, using MEJA, to prosecute Green, not at all worried that such a prosecution would inappropriately mire the courts in national security concerns (as in Vance). A double standard? You decide. But it does seem that the government would have a hard time squaring its prosecution of Green with its position in Vance.
[Image: Francisco de Goya, Desastre de la Guerra, Wikimedia Commons]
August 17, 2011 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Foreign Affairs, International, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Monday, August 8, 2011
A divided three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit ruled on Monday in Vance v. Rumsfeld that a Bivens suit by two Americans alleging that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld authorized their torture can move forward.
If the case sounds familiar, that's because it is: Just last week, Judge Gwin (D.D.C.) ruled in Doe v. Rumsfeld that a nearly identical suit can move forward. (The plaintiffs in the suits alleged similar torture at the same site, Camp Cropper, the U.S. military prison in Iraq.) The key difference between these cases and the D.C. Circuit's rejection of a torture claim against Rumsfeld in June: The plaintiffs here are U.S. citizens; the plaintiffs in the D.C. Circuit case, Arkan v. Rumsfeld, were aliens. (The D.C. Circuit ruled that it wasn't clearly established in 2004, the time of the actions there, that the Fifth and Eighth Amendments applied to aliens detained abroad; Rumsfeld thus had qualified immunity.)
Judge Hamilton's opinion in Vance, joined by Judge Evans, tracked Judge Gwin's reasoning, but with over 80 pages of detail. The meaty opinion seems carefully tailored to withstand any appeal.
In short, the court ruled that the plaintiffs sufficiently pleaded their allegations that Secretary Rumsfeld authorized treatment that violated the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause (substantive due process)--and that he reasonably should have known it. The court thus ruled that the plaintiffs pleaded facts sufficient to satisfy the pleading standard in Ashcroft v. Iqbal and that Rumsfeld did not qualify for immunity. The court also ruled that there was no reasonable alternative way for the plaintiffs to bring their claims and that there were no special factors counselling against a Bivens remedy. In particular, the court rejected the defendants' separation-of-powers arguments--like those in Doe--that courts don't have any business in cases dealing with national security and foreign affairs, especially in times of war. Here's a flavor of what the court said on that point:
The unprecedented breadth of defendants' argument should not be overlooked. The defendants contend that a Bivens remedy should not be available to U.S. citizens for any constitutional wrong, including torture and even cold-blooded murder, if the wrong occurs in a war zone. The defendants' theory would apply to any soldier or federal official, from the very top of the chain of command to the very bottom. We disagree and conclude that the plaintiffs may proceed with their Bivens claims.
Op. at 43.
Judge Minion wrote in dissent that the court improperly extended Bivens to this case--a case in which "United States citizens alleg[ed] torture while held in an American military prison in an active war zone." Op. at 81.
This makes two cases in two weeks--one district court, one circuit court--allowing very similar torture suits to move forward against Rumsfeld. We'll watch for appeals.
[Image: Anonymous, Execution, Wikimedia Commons]
August 8, 2011 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Due Process (Substantive), Fifth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, International, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Recent Cases, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Judge James S. Gwin (D.D.C.) ruled this week in Doe v. Rumsfeld that a U.S. citizen's Bivens suit against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld can move forward beyond the pleadings. In so ruling, Judge Gwin also flatly rejected some of the kinds of claims we've grown accustomed to by the government in cases arising out of its anti-terrorism programs--most especially a separation-of-powers claim that the courts have no business poking their noses in foreign affairs and national security.
The ruling comes on Rumsfeld's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint. The plaintiff, a U.S. citizen and civilian employee once deployed with a Marine intelligence unit in Iraq, alleged that Rumsfeld authorized his torture at overseas prisons operated by the United States and denied him fair process to challenge his designation and detention. He brought a Bivens claim for violations of substantive due process, procedural due process, and access to the courts and sought monetary damages.
Rumsfeld argued that the plaintiff's claim amounted to an unwarranted expansion of Bivens--that Bivens did not contemplate this kind of monetary damages claim, and that special factors counseled against recognizing the plaintiff's Bivens claim here--in particular, the separation-of-powers argument that this case raised foreign affairs, national security, and war-time issues uniquely within the bailiwick of the political branches, and that the courts have no expertise in these areas.
The court disagreed. Judge Gwin cited the Supreme Court's relatively recent and not-so-recent forays into foreign affairs, national security, and war-time issues--cases in which the government made arguments very similar to those Rumsfeld made here--and ruled that courts do, in fact, sometimes get involved in these issues. Moreover, Judge Gwin noted that the plaintiff was detained on his way out of Iraq, after he left the field of battle, when he could no longer offer low-level aid to insurgents (as the government alleged). Judge Gwin also rejected Rusmfeld's related "real world consequences" of allowing a Bivens remedy here, that the threat of liability would impede military decisionmaking; that proceeding with the case would involve sensitive information, distracting discovery, and testimony by soldiers that would disrupt the military's efforts; and that the action would "embroil the judiciary in war-related decisions" that are complicated to litigate.
Judge Gwin also rejected Rumsfeld's qualified immunity defense. Judge Gwin wrote that the plaintiff pleaded sufficient facts to show that Rumsfeld approved of policies that led to his torture, in violation of substantive due process. (He was careful to write that this was not a respondeat superior claim in violation of Ashcroft v. Iqbal. Instead, it was a direct claim for authorizing torture.) But Judge Gwin wrote that the plaintiff did not plead sufficient facts to show that Rumsfeld directed his shoddy process in violation of procedural due process and the right of access to the judiciary. He thus dismissed these two claims.
The ruling means that the plaintiff jumped one of his most significant hurdles--getting past the pleadings on his torture claim against Rumsfeld--especially after the Supreme Court clarified the high pleading standard in Iqbal and especially given a very recent ruling by the D.C. Circuit in a very similar case. Just over a month ago, the D.C. Circuit dismissed a Bivens claim against Rumsfeld for torture by an alien detained overseas. Key to the D.C. Circuit's ruling in Arkan v. Rumsfeld was that it wasn't clearly established at the time that the Fifth and Eighth Amendments applied to aliens detained abroad (not our case). But maybe just as key--and more relevant to Doe--the court ruled that prudential considerations--that cases like this against military officials would disrupt the war effort, just like Rumsfeld's argument in Doe--counselled against extending a Bivens remedy.
If the D.C. Circuit applies this same prudential considerations analysis to Doe, this case won't go far.
August 3, 2011 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Due Process (Substantive), Executive Authority, Fifth Amendment, Foreign Affairs, Fundamental Rights, International, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
A Vietnamese appeals court earlier this week upheld the conviction and seven-year sentence of attorney and scholar Cu Huy Ha Vu for propagandizing against the Vietnamese government. Human Rights Watch has a report and case materials here.
According to the indictment, Vu called for the elimination of the leading role of the Vietnamese Communist Party, the removal of Article 4 of the Constitution (discussed below), and a multi-party, plural political system. Here's a sample of what the government claimed Vu said:
In short, to maintain the leadership of the Vietnamese Communist Party over the country is nothing other than serving the illegal interests of a small group inside the Vietnamese Communist Party, which goes against the interests of the majority of the people, including millions of Communist Party members, and therefore should not be prolonged any further. By the way, I am once again beckoning the leaders of the Vietnamese Communist Party to promptly apply a multi-party system in Vietnam, otherwise, national integration and national conciliation will become national deception, with its foreseeable negative consequences.
Article 4 of the Constitution cements one-party, Communist rule in the country. It reads,
The Communist Party of Vietnam, the vanguard of the Vietnamese working class, the faithful representative of the rights and interests of the working class, the toiling people, and the whole nation, acting upon the Marxist-Leninist doctrine and Ho Chi Minh's thought, is the force leading the State and society.
All Party organisations operate within the framework of the Constitution and the law.
Vietnam, of course, isn't alone in its one-party approach. But it's in dwindling company--just a handful of constitutions today still codify one-party rule (even if more have de facto one-party rule). Here's a sample, from Cuba:
The Communist Party of Cuba, a follower of Marti's ideas and of Marxism-Leninism, and the organized vanguard of the Cuban nation, is the highest leading force of society and of the state, which organizes and guides the common effort toward the goals of the construction of socialism and the progress toward a communist society.
Cuban Constitution, Article 5. And another, from neighbor Laos:
The rights of the multi-ethnic people to be masters of the country are exercised and ensured through the functioning of the political system with the Lao People's Revolutionary Party as its leading nucleus.
Lao Constitution, Article 3.
In addition to the one-party rule provision, Vietnam's Constitution also contains these "rights":
Article 50: In the Socialist Republic of Vietnam human rights in the political, civic, economic, cultural and social fields are respected. They are embodied in the citizen's rights and are determined by the Constitution and the law.
Article 51: The State guarantees the rights of the citizen; the citizen must fulfill his duties to the State and society.
Article 53: The citizen has the right to participate in the administration of the State and management of society, the dicussion of problems of the country and the region; he can send petitions to State organs and vote in referendums organised by the State.
Article 70: The citizen shall enjoy freedom of opinion and speech, freedom of the press, the right to be informed, and the right to assemble, form associations and hold demonstrations in accordance with the provisions of the law.
Article 76: The citizen must show loyalty to his motherland. To betray one's motherland is the most serious crime.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
The Republic of South Sudan celebrates its independence this month, with a ceremony on July 9, the new nation's independence day, in the capital Juba. Southern Sudanese voted overwhelmingly for independence in February. The United States immediately recognized the new country and will send a delegation to Juba for the ceremony.
The Republic of Southern Sudan has been operating under an interim constitution since the comprehensive peace agreement with Sudan. The government formed a constitutional review committee chaired by Minister of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development John Luk Jok to review and revise the interim constitution.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
Moroccan voters on Friday overwhelmingly approved a new Constitution. Preliminary results show the referendum passed with over 98 percent of the vote, with over 72 percent voter turnout. Here's the BBC's very helpful Q&A.
King Mohammed VI proposed the "comprehensive constitutional reform" in reaction to the protests there that began on February 20--Morocco's version of the Arab Spring protests sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. According to reports, the changes are designed to shift power away from the King and toward the Prime Minister and Parliament, ensure an independent judiciary, and make Berber an official language alongside Arabic. (We'll post the text of the new Constitution as soon as we can track it down.)