The questions presented by the Padilla case

April 19, 2006, midnight | By Natasha Prados | 18 years, 1 month ago

The Supreme Court's lack of action is disturbing

The Supreme Court opted on April 3 not to review the federal government's powers to detain U.S. citizens as enemy combatants, according to The Washington Post.

The court voted in a 6 to 3 decision not to review the case of Jose Padilla, arrested in 2002 as an alleged member of Al-Qaeda because the government met Padilla's request to be transferred from a Navy brig to a civilian prison, according to the article. Padilla's transfer made a discussion of his rights "hypothetical," according to the court.

But the time Padilla spent in the Navy brig before his transfer last November was far from hypothetical — his case deserves consideration. More important, so does the larger issue of U.S. detention powers.

There are many concerns about U.S. detention powers that warrant deliberation: the legal situation of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, the use of secret prisons abroad, the alleged use of torture on detainees and the rights of "enemy combatants."

The court's decision to avoid reviewing a case so pertinent to the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and of such concern to the general populous is highly irresponsible. The Supreme Court exists to maintain a balance of power with the Legislative and Executive branches, but instead of holding the administration accountable for its actions, the court is refusing to even examine what can only be deemed questionable procedures.

In addition, a failure to review the case leaves open the question of whether the government can legally detain U.S. citizens without charge on American soil, a question meriting immediate attention. The powers of President Bush's administration have gone unchecked too long. Judicial review is one of the most crucial mechanisms for maintaining democracy, preventing corruption and ensuring the government operates in the best interests of the people.

The fact that the court chose not to evaluate the Padilla case is ominous. The Supreme Court should be stepping up to guarantee that the Constitution is upheld and that human rights are respected, not giving the Bush administration free reign.

Natasha Prados. More »

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