28 March 2006

Recuse me?

Today, the SCOTUS began hearing arguments in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the case challenging the legitimacy of the military tribunal system for adjudicating the detainees being held in the "war on terror." Chief Justice John Roberts is recused from the case owing to a prior ruling he made, but, interestingly, Antonin Scalia was front and center for the March 28th session. Interesting, because of these comments Scalia made back on March 8:
Scalia dismissed the idea that the detainees have rights under the U.S. Constitution or international conventions, adding he was "astounded" at the "hypocritical" reaction in Europe to Gitmo. "War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts," he says on a tape of the talk reviewed by NEWSWEEK. "Give me a break." Challenged by one audience member about whether the Gitmo detainees don't have protections under the Geneva or human-rights conventions, Scalia shot back: "If he was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he belongs. I had a son on that battlefield and they were shooting at my son and I'm not about to give this man who was captured in a war a full jury trial. I mean it's crazy."
Nothing like making explicit, public denials of rights that might be held by detainees, mere weeks away from being asked to determine whether or not the military tribunal system abrogates such rights. After that little off-topic aside, does it come as any surprise, whatsoever, that it was Scalia who "provid(ed) the only clearcut signs of unstinting support for the federal government's arguments?"

Remember the good old days, a few months back, when we were told, over and over, how inappropriate it would be for a nominee to comment on issues that might come before him/her on the court? Virtually overnight, the so-called "Ginsburg Doctrine" became the cornerstone of our judicial system. They never mentioned its underpublicized, post-confirmation corollary that makes it no big deal for a sitting justice to openly make up his mind before hearing word one of the relevant arguments. Clearly, in this climate, the Scalia Doctrine has legs.

Bottom line, wearing that robe is a hell of a gig. In addition to rock-solid job security and being oh-so-slimming, to boot, it apparently comes with the freedom from having to uphold even the pretense of anything resembling impartiality.

Good show, your "honor."

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