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Retired Judges Letter to Congress on Court Stripping of Habeas Corpus

Retired federal judges write to Congress to express concern about a proposed amendment to the Defense Authorization bill.

Published: December 8, 2005

The amendment in question threatens to take away the federal court’s habeas corpus jurisdiction for detainees in the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base. The retired federal judges writing this letter urge Congress to remove the amendment from the Defense Authorization bill. They acknowledge that Congress wishes to avoid an increase of “frivolous claims,” but assert that “no judge has found any filing of a Guantánamo detainee to be frivolous.” Furthermore, the authors defend the ability of federal judges to determine which claims are worth review.


Ultimately, the retired federal judges warn Congress of the threat this amendment poses to habeas corpus. They write that the district court’s review of habeas petitions is essential to guarding a lawful detention procedure that is free of torture or cruel treatment of prisoners. In addition, they suggest that with this legislation, the Government appears to be altering jurisdictions to forward its own agendas.