Another Bogus Attack On Judicial Nominee Halligan

Blog ››› ››› ADAM SHAH

Ed Whelan has posted his second attack on judicial nominee Caitlin Halligan for supposedly having a record that suggests she is "hard left." Previously, Whelan tried (but failed) to paint Halligan as outside the mainstream on the issue of same-sex marriage. His new attack is that she is too far left on national security issues. Unfortunately for Whelan, her position on one of the issues he highlights is the same as that taken by Justice Antonin Scalia.

Whelan's latest attack on Halligan is that she is one of more than 30 people to sign a 2004 report by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York report on President Bush's detention policies.

Whelan argues: "The NYC Bar report maintains (p. 110) that the congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (enacted September 18, 2001) does not authorize indefinite detention of enemy combatants." He paints this as out of the mainstream because a majority of the Supreme Court held in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that the Authorization of the Use of Military Force did allow such detentions. Be that as it may (and the majority opinion in that case did not support the Bush administration's detention policies), four justices disagreed with that holding, and one of those was Scalia (the judge for whom Whelan clerked).

Scalia -- in an opinion joined by Justice John Paul Stevens wrote:

Where the Government accuses a citizen of waging war against it, our constitutional tradition has been to prosecute him in federal court for treason or some other crime. Where the exigencies of war prevent that, the Constitution's Suspension Clause, Art. I, §9, cl. 2, allows Congress to relax the usual protections temporarily. Absent suspension, however, the Executive's assertion of military exigency has not been thought sufficient to permit detention without charge. No one contends that the congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force, on which the Government relies to justify its actions here, is an implementation of the Suspension Clause. Accordingly, I would reverse the decision below.

Justices David Souter and Stephen Breyer also dissented from the view that the Authorization for Use of Military Force authorized the detention in Hamdi's case.

One final point: Whelan attempts to buttress his argument by saying that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the court to which Halligan has been nominated, has "adopted that broad construction" of the Authorization for Use of Military Force. However, Whelan cites only cases dealing with detainees at Guantanamo, and the report Halligan signed explicity said: "a large group of alleged 'enemy combatants' seized abroad is being held at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba (see p. 29, above), detentions which present distinct issues not addressed in this report."

So, in essence, either Whelan is providing evidence that Scalia is "hard left" or it's a bogus argument against Halligan. I suggest it's the latter.

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