Padilla Wins in District Court for the District of South Carolina



As I’m sure you’ve heard, Jose Padilla, the alleged “dirty bomber”, won his case before the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina.

Padilla was originally apprehended at O’Hare Int’l Airport pursuant to a material witness warrant. He was held in New York in a federal prison until the President issued an order designating him an “enemy combatant.” He was then transferred to the Consolidated Naval Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, where he has been held ever since. After going through the appellate processes in the Second Circuit(losing at the district court, and winning on appeal), the Supreme Court granted cert. and ruled that “[t]he District of South Carolina, not the Southern District of New York, was the district court in which Padilla should have brought his habeas petition.”

So…we begin the process all over again in the Fourth Circuit. And as the headline reads, Padilla wins again. Now I’m not saying that Padilla isn’t a dirty little terrorist, but it seems pretty likely(although the 4th Circuit tends to sit right-of-center) that he’s going to win his appeal as well, although perhaps not as broad a win a this one. The distinction between a “capture” on foreign soil and one on domestic soil is significant, and provides a nice maneuver around Hamdi. Not to mention that even if the AUMF is read broadly to give authorization of domestic captures, the Constitution still applies. The point is, the govnerment needs to just charge the guy criminally(heck there’s certainly no lack of applicable criminal laws). Shoving “enemy combatant” status on a U.S. citizen arrested on domestic soil just doesn’t cut it.

What benefit could the government possibly glean from holding him as an “enemy combatant” rather than a run-of-the-mill criminal. Even at the most crucial point of his capture, the point at which the government could gather the most information out of him, he was held in a federal prison in New York.

Here’s the opinion.

UPDATE: There’s even a jab at Rumsfeld in the opinion.

This Court sits to interpret the law as it is and not as the Court might wish it to be.

UPDATE II: Around the Blawgosphere…

Jack Balkin
Michael Froomkin
Peggy McGuiness
Lyle Denniston
Orin Kerr