Thursday, October 14, 2021

From Roger Fitch and our friends down under at Justinian

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Blowback from the "war on terror" of the early 2000s still affects the supreme court docket: one of the first cases argued in the court's new October term was that of Abu Zubaydah, the long-suffering, much-abused Guantánamo internee

Zubaydah's detention and mistreatment was one of the earliest emanations of that time when George Bush, aided and abetted by congress, effectively blew up the rule of law, and consequently, federal criminal (and sometimes civil) justice: not just through torture, but in the torture cover-up, repeatedly claiming, in shameless bad faith, the so-called state secrets privilege

The Zubaydah case, now in the supreme court, directly confronts the question, how does the privilege apply when the "state secret" - the fact that Poland assisted CIA torture - is not a secret at all

The Poles themselves have already acknowledged their participation and even paid damages to Zubaydah, in the European Court of Human Rights; however, they haven't gone so far as to give tours of the former US torture facilities, as the Taliban are doing in Afghanistan.

An amicus brief filed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism demonstrates why the case does not in fact involve state secrets, more here, oral argument here

Although the justices appeared unlikely to rule in Zubaydah's favour on the state secrets issue, they seemed genuinely astonished that the prisoner's habeas petition had not been acted upon since 2008

The court will also hear another "state secrets" case this term, involving FBI surveillance.

Nine important cases are already on the supreme court's docket for the October term, including a case in which, surprisingly, public defenders joined the enemy gun camp in opposing New York's concealed-gun regulations

Berkeley law dean Erwin Chemerinsky has a preview of the supreme court's term, and a new book warning of the right-wing court's ominous agenda; the Nation's Ely Mystal, a Harvard lawyer, also paints a bleak view of the likely regressive direction of the court's new conservative supermajority. 

Berkeley's Chemerinsky: court's ominous agenda

In its recent recess orders overturning Biden administration executive orders, so at variance with the court's deferential treatment of Trump's orders, the majority seems to be siding with Republican party policy, issuing transparently partisan decisions; so far, the court has favoured Trump executive orders 28 times compared to zero for Biden. More here

If these shadow docket decisions are any indication, Donald Trump's ideological judicial appointments portend a partisan court that will be anti-progressive, anti-regulatory and pro-corporate, a rubber stamp for Republican causes and initiatives that will last for years.

The court has also weaponised lower court orders of Trump-appointed judges, as in the case of states' meddling in immigration, here and here. The district court judges, both sitting in Texas, ruled in response to red border states who oppose the Biden administration's immigration policies, policies heretofore considered exclusively within the purview of the federal government.

This latest supreme court mischief has only increased calls for judicial reforms, including additional members for the court.