Al-Marri Detention Case Vacated

March 6, 2009

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Susan Lehman, (212) 998-6318

Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, (212) 998-6289 or (646) 265-7721

Major Victory for Rule of Law, But Declines Opportunity to Clarify Law

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a lower federal court decision giving the President power to detain indefinitely citizens and legal residents in the United States. While the Court also declined the opportunity to clarify the law, and make it clear beyond doubt that the President has no such domestic lock-up power, today's ruling marks a major victory for the rule of law.

The Court today dismissed the petition for review of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, until now the sole remaining person to be designated and held as an "enemy combatant" in the continental United States. Since 2006, the Brennan Center for Justice has represented Mr. al-Marri in two cases challenging his military detention and unlawful and unconstitutional conditions of confinement.

Last week, Mr. al-Marri was charged with a two-count indictment in Peoria, Illinois. The government then argued to the Supreme Court that this ended his military custody and rendered his challenge to military detention moot. Citing the continuing risk of a new designation, the Brennan Center argued (in a brief here) that the Court should still hear the case and decide this issue of overwhelming national significance.

"We applaud the Supreme Court for vacating a decision that accepted the extraordinary claim that the President has free-wheeling authority to detain indefinitely people living in the United States," said Brennan Center Counsel Emily Berman. "But we are still disappointed that the court did not take this opportunity to firmly clarify the limits of detention power. It's up to President Obama now to affirmatively renounce the domestic detention power claimed by his predecessor," she added.

The Brennan Center also cautioned that the Supreme Court's decision today does not alter the Fourth Circuit's 2005 ruling in the case of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla, also originally detained without criminal charges in military custody.

To arrange for an interview, please contact Susan Lehman at (212) 998-6318 or or Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at (212) 998-6289 or at