Friday, April 3, 2009

Bush Judge Strikes Another Blow For Terrorism

An April 3, 2009 editorial by the editors of National Review Online entitled "Imperial Judiciary Goes Global" explains why a decision of a federal judge in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, unless reversed on appeal, will be an unmitigated disaster for our national security and America’s ability to defend herself.

The judge ruled that "[t]hough [the recent Supreme Court] Rasul and Boumediene [cases] involved only the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Judge John D. Bates (a George W. Bush appointee) ruled that alien combatants detained by our military in Bagram, Afghanistan — an active combat zone — are entitled to petition the federal courts for their release."

The National Review Online editorial will soon be joined by similar commentary, once again exposing the devastating effect of the Rasul and Boumediene decisions and underscoring the culpability of the Republican presidents who appointed some of the justices responsible for the Court’s majority’s rape of separation of powers in those cases.

So I will pass on that commentary here (but see, for example my article at to make another point: This utterly indefensible decision was made by yet another Republican-appointed federal judge (perhaps vetted by Bush’s failed nominee, Harriet Miers), John D. Bates.

Much will soon be written about Bates, but in the meantime there is an interesting tidbit about his earlier life as a lawyer.

John D. Bates was a board member of the "Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs."

What’s that?

According to its anniversary-edition website, "[t]he Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs for 40 years has represented both individuals and groups seeking to vindicate their civil rights. It has handled over 5,000 civil rights cases, in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other aspects of urban life. It represents people with claims of discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, disability, age, religion, and sexual orientation. It assists immigrants seeking asylum and other help. It works for education reform in the DC Public Schools. Leveraging its own broad expertise in discrimination litigation with the resources of Washington, D.C.’s private bar, the Committee's litigation efforts have become nationally known for landmark court victories, record judgments, and precedent-setting consent decrees. Its capacity to mobilize the private bar has made it possible for the Committee to provide its clients more than 50,000 hours of quality legal representation every year."

The Committee is especially proud of its "D.C. Prisoner’s Project."

What’s that?

"As the successor to the D.C. Prisoners’'Legal Services Project, Inc., the mission of the D.C. Prisoners' Project of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs remains to advocate for the humane treatment and dignity of all persons convicted or charged with a criminal offense under D.C. law housed in prisons, jails or community corrections programs, to assist their family members with prison-related issues, and to promote progressive criminal justice reform. Our Project remains the only legal organization with a mission of advocating for the interests of over 7,000 D.C. prisoners currently held in 99 different federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities across the country, in addition to more than 3,500 held in the D.C. Jail and the Correctional Treatment Facility."

What does the Committee do?

It has been busy "[i]nsuring access to constitutionally-adequate levels of medical and mental health care in both local jail and distant BOP facilities"; "recognizing the particular problems of women in correctional facilities"; "[r]esponding to, and working to prevent, acts of violence, including securing money damages for our clients where appropriate and to discourage conditions that lead to violence"; . "[i]nsuring prisoners' access to the courts and legal resources"; "[i]mproving the way individuals are released from jail and prison, and their tratment after release, with particular attention to their medical and mental health needs, but also including issues around employment, housing, and parole"; "[e]ngaging in public policy advocacy to improve our client's conditions of confinement and to support alternatives to incarceration."

Thank you, once again, Mr. Republican judge-appointer, for yet another liberal on the federal bench, and for another body blow to America’s ability to defend herself against guerilla fighters. Against irregular forces—once, but no longer, appropriately called "enemy combatants"—but who are now apparently just another bunch of garden-variety criminals operating not in Alabama but in Afghanistan.