Bills to Restore Habeas and Detainee Rights Introduced

Say hello to The "Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007" and "Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007."

Introduced last week Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Jane Harman (D-CA) respectively, the bills would restore habeas and other rights to the detainees at Guantanamo.

The ACLU welcomes the bills.

The "Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007" mirrors a bill, S. 185, offered in the Senate by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. This bill would restore habeas corpus for those detained by the American government.

The "Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007" would also reinstate habeas rights and clarify the definition of "enemy combatants." Additionally, it would block the federal government from making up its own rules on torture. The Geneva Conventions have governed American behavior during war for decades. The bill makes clear the federal government must comply with the Conventions, and no one in the federal government - not even the president -- can make up their own rules on torture and abuse.


Like its counterpart in the Senate, S.576, sponsored by Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), the act would also end the two different standards -- one for privates and sergeants and another for top government officials. The Military Commissions Act left military personnel subject to comprehensive laws against torture and abuse, but gave top government officials a get-out-of-jail free card. The bill makes sure that all felony torture and abuse can be prosecuted, regardless of rank.

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    Speaking of Restoring Habeas Corpus ... (none / 0) (#1)
    by Peter G on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 03:05:25 PM EST
    ... I could suggest about a dozen provisions of the (Clinton-sponsored) Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"), enacted in April 1996 in a fit of legislative brain-freeze over the Oklahoma City bombing, that need repealing or amending in order to genuinely "restore habeas corpus."  Bad as the elimination of habeas for GWOT detainees is, the gutting of federal court review over unconstitutional state criminal convictions, particularly capital convictions, is a much more far-reaching travesty of justice.  As one little example, the Supreme Court by vote of 5-4 a couple of weeks ago in Lawrence v Florida threw out  a state prisoner's challenge to his death sentence because his lawyer very reasonably misunderstood whether a certain 90-day period was or was not available to him to work on his client's habeas petition before filing it under a deadline (according to 5 Justices; the others thought the lawyer had been correct in her time-calculation).  The most scandalous provision says the federal court must deny habeas relief even if it concludes the conviction or sentence is unconstitutional, if the state appellate court was "reasonable" in its erroneous ruling to the contrary. (Note that the reasonable procedural mistake by the court-appointed lawyer, whom the prisoner didn't even get to select, which causes a loss of the prisoner's right to federal court review of the denial of his rights by the state court, cannot be excused, but a reasonable error by the state court itself, which denies the prisoner his constitutional rights in the first place, must be excused.)