POL 201 American National Government
Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution states, “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in the case of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” The statement may seem fairly straight forward in that all citizens shall have the right to have their case heard by a judge unless they are considered war criminals or the possibility of the person being released would be a hazard to public safety. There are still many debates about this passage in the Constitution on what if any limitations can be presented to the exceptions. These debates became more heated and wide spread after a series of cases were brought before the Supreme Courts in regards to the Bush administration holding detainees termed as “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay and with holding their rights to Habeas Corpus. One such case that has been brought fourth and ruled upon is the case of Boumethene v. Bush which the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the detainees have the right to challenge the grounds of their detention. (Pond 2009) Although this ruling has seemingly been a step to defining some limitations on restricting Habeas Corpus, there is still much debate surrounding it on the terms of the war on terror which became a major campaign after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The major debates that seem be prevalent is what limitations should be placed on the suspension of Habeas Corpus in respects to enemy detainees. The Definition and History of Habeas Corpus
The Writ Habeas Corpus, which is also known as the great writ of liberty, is the right to petition to be seen before a judge to determine the legality of the detainee’s imprisonment as it pertains to the U.S. judicial system. Put simply if someone is imprisoned, they have a right to plead their case before a judge that they have been wrongfully imprisoned by our laws. Many of the American Colonies had a similar form of Habeas Corpus written into their statutes prior to the Constitution so the concept was not completely foreign. The delegates at the Constitutional Convention discussed the need for a provision that assured the availability of Habeas Corpus to all citizens and after much debate, they settled on a provision which prohibited the suspension towards detainees held in federal prison. The assumed intent of the framers of the Constitution was to prevent Congress from suspending the writ of Habeas Corpus as was done by the British Parliament which allowed the colonist to be imprisoned without the legal ability to challenge the charges. After the Civil war, The Congressional Committee on Reconstruction feared that Negros would be the target of many false imprisonments and be held in state prisons which would negate any powers the Federal courts would have to extend the Writ of Habeas Corpus. In order to prevent the southern states from abusing the judicial system by imprisoning the newly freed slaves they added a provision to the Reconstruction Act that allowed the Federal courts to grant habeas corpus to state prisoners. The years that followed the passing of the Reconstruction Act, the cases heard by the Supreme Court were limited to instances where the sentencing court lacked jurisdiction until 1915 in the case of Frank v. Magnum where the Supreme Court ruled the detainee was being denied due process. (E. Chemerinsky, 1987) Although the suspension of habeas corpus is prohibited from being suspended, there are many instances in U.S. history where suspension during wartime. One famous instance was President Abraham Lincoln’s order to suspend habeas corpus. Lincoln issued suspension despite the lower court’s ruling that he did not have the authority to call for such a suspension (the Court Of Appeals did not have authority to enforce its order to repeal the suspension). However in...