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Court Rejects Padilla's Appeal for Swift Review

June 14, 2005|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request by Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen held for three years as a suspected "enemy combatant," for an immediate decision on his detention instead of waiting for a federal appeals court to rule.

His lawyers asked the justices to decide whether President Bush had the power to seize U.S. citizens in civilian settings on American soil and subject them to indefinite military detention without criminal charges or a trial.

The justices rejected Padilla's request for immediate review without comment or recorded dissent.

Padilla, a former Chicago gang member and a convert to Islam, initially was suspected by U.S. officials of plotting with Al Qaeda to set off a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the United States.

U.S. officials last year backed off that claim and said Padilla had plotted with Al Qaeda leaders to blow up apartment buildings by using natural gas. None of the plots was carried out.

On May 8, 2002, Padilla was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport after returning from Pakistan. Bush declared him an enemy combatant, and Padilla has been held in solitary confinement at a Navy brig in South Carolina since.

"This case is of imperative public importance that justifies immediate review in this court," Padilla's lawyer, Stanford University law professor Jenny Martinez, said in the appeal to the justices.

"Only this court -- and not the court of appeals -- can provide the definitive answer the nation needs to the momentous and pressing constitutional questions presented by this case," she said.

A federal judge in South Carolina ruled in February that Bush had no authority to hold Padilla as an enemy combatant. The judge said Padilla must be released if not charged with a crime.

The Bush administration appealed to a U.S. court in Richmond, Va. The appeals court has scheduled arguments in the case for July 19.

Padilla's lawyers asked the high court to bypass the appeals court and take the case directly from the judge's ruling. The Supreme Court rarely grants such requests.

Solicitor General Paul Clement of the Justice Department argued there was no need for the Supreme Court to consider the case now.

"The court of appeals might ... resolve the government's appeal in ways that could make further review inappropriate or unnecessary at this time," he said.

Padilla's lawyers said the court already was familiar with the facts of the case. The justices heard arguments last year.

Last June, the Supreme Court declined to decide whether Bush had the power to detain Padilla. It ruled on narrow jurisdictional grounds that the case should have been brought in South Carolina instead of New York.

After the Richmond appeals court rules, the losing side could appeal to the Supreme Court.

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