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Hon. Timothy K. Lewis Participates in Capitol Hill Briefing on the Habeas Rights of Guantánamo Detainees Broadcast on C-SPAN

On July 19, 2010 by Schnader

On July 19, Hon. Timothy K. Lewis, co-chair of Schnader’s Appellate Practice Group, participated in a Capitol Hill briefing highlighting the new, groundbreaking report from The Constitution Project and Human Rights First, “Habeas Works: Federal Courts’ Proven Capacity to Handle Guantánamo Cases.” The session also included Douglas K. Spaulding of Reed Smith LLP, who has served as counsel to several Guantánamo detainees, and was moderated by The Constitution Project’s Senior Policy Counsel Sharon Bradford Franklin. The event, held at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, was attended by a capacity crowd and was recorded and broadcast by C-SPAN.

The report – which was endorsed by 16 former federal judges – reviews the work of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as a result of the United States Supreme Court decision in Boumediene v. Bush, 128 S. Ct. 2229 (2008), which held that the constitutionally guaranteed right of habeas corpus review applies to persons held in Guantánamo, enabling them to challenge their detentions in federal court. The Supreme Court also charged judges of the District Court with developing the framework for reviewing Guantánamo detainees’ habeas cases.

The report found that in the years since the Boumediene decision, the District Court judges have proven that they are fully capable of handling such suits and have successfully developed consistent jurisprudence on both the standards to be applied and the procedural and evidentiary rules governing these cases. The report notes that “[t]he bench has moved judiciously and cautiously to apply the pertinent law and develop the procedural rules governing habeas cases. In that way, the courts have gradually forged an effective jurisprudence that seeks to address the government’s interest in national security while protecting the right of prisoners to fairly challenge their detention.”

The report went on to emphasize that enacting new federal legislation would only destabilize the existing jurisprudence: “[a] careful study of the D.C. federal courts’ post-Boumediene jurisprudence shows that attacks on the judiciary’s role are entirely unfounded. We fully recognize that Congress has the power, within constitutional limits, to set a detention standard of its own, and to prescribe rules of evidence and procedure to govern habeas cases. But in our considered judgment, reflecting our many years of experience on the bench, and based on our study of the available data, there is no need for Congress to do so here. Moreover, even if Congress were to legislate new standards, the courts will still have to interpret and apply the new law. Asking Congress to legislate an entirely new set of substantive or procedural rules to govern these cases would simply destabilize the emerging jurisprudence.”

The Constitution Project was founded in 1997 to create a climate for bipartisanship in defense of constitutional rights and values. These rights and values include individual freedom, the presumption that those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty, greater transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness in government, and respect for the rule of law. The Constitution Project is a non-partisan, non-profit think tank based in Washington D.C.

Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence. Human Rights First protects people at risk: refugees who flee persecution, victims of crimes against humanity or other mass human rights violations, victims of discrimination, those whose rights are eroded in the name of national security, and human rights advocates who are targeted for defending the rights of others. Human Rights First works to prevent violations against these groups and to seek justice and accountability for violations against them. Human Rights First is a non-profit, non-partisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C.