- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2006


An appeals court considering whether Guantanamo Bay detainees have constitutional rights said yesterday that it will not accept arguments by seven retired federal judges who oppose a new U.S. anti-terrorism law.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is examining whether enemy combatants should be allowed to challenge their detention in U.S. courts. President Bush signed a law this fall forbidding such challenges and the Justice Department says detainees are not protected by the Constitution.

Seven federal judges from both political parties filed friend-of-the-court briefs in November urging the appeals court to declare key parts of the new law unconstitutional. They said the law, which sets up military commissions to hear terrorism cases, “challenges the integrity of our judicial system” and effectively sanctions the use of torture.

In a 2-1 decision yesterday, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said it would not accept that brief on a legal technicality, saying the title “judge” should not be used to describe former judges in legal proceedings.

The panel’s more conservative judges, David B. Sentelle and A. Raymond Randolph, issued the opinion with Judge Judith W. Rogers, an appointee of President Clinton, dissenting.

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, said it’s unusual for such briefs to be rejected. He said the ruling could indicate a decision in the detainee case is near.

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