Whether it’s a bolt from the blue — or, as with many decisions handed down last week, a blot from the blue — the Supreme Court has broken with tradition to reverse itself on whether to reverse a ruling on our weird naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a country it’s allegedly illegal for Michael Moore or most any other American citizen to visit:

From the International Herald Tribune (New York Times)

Supreme Court to hear habeas corpus claims of Guantánamo detainees
By William Glaberson
Published: June 29, 2007

The United States Supreme Court reversed course on Friday and agreed to hear claims of Guantánamo detainees that they have a right to challenge their detentions in American federal courts.

The decision, announced in a brief order released this morning, set the stage for a historic legal battle that appeared likely to affect debates in the Bush administration about when and how to close the detention center that has become a lightening rod for international criticism.

[Notice, as I’ve been talking about, the cliché erosion syndrome I’ve mentioned before; “lightening rod” would be a beautician’s bleaching wand, where a “lightning rod” would be that Benjamin Franklin invention, given free to the world, that grounds lightning bolts, protecting buildings, which used to be extremely popular with lightning. ]

Stunning news, ¿Que no?

The Los Angeles TIMES story by David G. Savage adds some vital detail:

Court personnel said it appeared to be the first time in 60 years that the justices had denied an appeal petition and then voted to reconsider the decision and hear the matter.

Such a move takes five votes. Three of the court’s liberal justices — Stephen G. Breyer, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — voted in April to hear the Guantanamo case. Two others — Justices John Paul Stevens and Anthony M. Kennedy — said the issues were important, but they said then that they were willing to wait while the detainees and their lawyers went through an appeals process created by Congress.

Today’s announcement may reflect the court’s frustration with the administration and its refusal to give fair hearings to the inmates. Last week, a former military lawyer described the process as a sham.

Whether to burnish its PR credentials, or to assert an historic stance for the rule of law — that has so eroded since those who rode into power espousing it did such a great job of dismantling it — we have no way of telling.

But it is, perhaps, a hopeful sign that the Supreme Court will get out of the business of overruling voters and get back to the business of overrruling juries.

The fact that John Roberts helped prepare the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court brief in 2000 should probably not be mentioned.


PS: Here’s a New York Times headline timeline on Gitmo. It’s unscientific, but you can spot trends.

MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2007
Lawyer for Australian detainee at Guantánamo seeks removal of prosecutor

Guilty plea from Australian detainee in Guantánamo

Australian detainee held at Guantánamo pleads guilty

Australian at Guantánamo gets 9 months

A new hunger strike breaks out at Guantánamo

U.S. asks court to limit lawyers at Guantánamo

U.S. asks court to cut lawyers’ access to Guantánamo

FRIDAY, APRIL 27, 2007
Compounding the injustice at Guantánamo Bay

Many detainees at Guantánamo rebuff lawyers

TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2007
Guantánamo detainees’ suit challenges fairness of U.S. military’s repeat hearings

SUNDAY, JUNE 3, 2007
A legal debate in Guantánamo on boy fighters

SUNDAY, JUNE 3, 2007
U.S. challenges international rules on child soldiers

MONDAY, JUNE 4, 2007
Judges set back Bush’s Guantánamo military tribunals

FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2007
U.S reverses course on Guantánamo detainees

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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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