WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 30, 2006) – LAWFUEL – Press Release Service – Perkins Coie attorneys were part of a defense team that received a favorable ruling in a landmark case that challenged the scope of presidential authority. In a historic decision, the Supreme Court ruled (5-3) that military tribunals established by the Executive Office to try enemy combatants and detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are not authorized by Congress and violate both domestic and international laws, including the laws of war and the Geneva Conventions.
The case, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, challenged the military commission process on behalf of Salim Hamdan, who has been detained since November 2001. Mr. Hamdan was apprehended in Afghanistan and transported to an American prison in Guantanamo Bay. Working with the prisoner’s assigned military defense counsel, Lt. Commander Charles Swift of the U.S. Navy, and Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal, the Perkins Coie pro bono team argued that the Bush Administration overstepped its authority when it set up military commissions to try terrorist suspects such as Hamdan, and that the process utilized by the Administration violated international law and did not conform to the basic rights afforded to those who are accused under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In addition, the Court concluded that a statute enacted by Congress in late 2005 did not strip it of jurisdiction to hear the case.
Perkins Coie lawyers, paralegals and staff have spent thousands of pro bono hours on the case since it was first filed in April 2004.
“Perkins Coie undertook this case because the legal issues it presents are important and profound, and they go right to the very foundation of our constitutional system of justice and the rule of law,” explained Harry Schneider, a senior partner on the pro bono team. “The case raised critical questions about the scope of presidential authority, whether this president or any president can deny prisoners basic due process rights in the name of waging war, and it tested in the most important way our federal courts’ very ability and jurisdiction to consider such disputes. The Court’s decision today is a landmark ruling that reaffirms the fundamental principles of our system of justice. We are honored to have been given the opportunity to work on this important case.”
Judge Robert Lasnik of the Western District of Washington, where the case was originally filed, remarked in open court that Perkins Coie’s pro bono participation was “the highest calling of the profession,” and an example of the “greatest tradition of the bar and the country.”
PDF of the Supreme Court’s ruling
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