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Boumediene v. Bush

Citation. 553 U.S. 723
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Brief Fact Summary.

Some detainees held at Guantanamo Bay sued for the freedom under habeas corpus, but the MCA placed different burdens on habeas corpus proceedings.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Non-citizen detainees have the right to habeas corpus.


The petitioners in this case were determined to be enemy combatants. They are all foreign nationals and held at Guantanamo Bay. They sued for their freedom under  habeas corpus. The MCA placed different burdens on habeas corpus proceedings.


Do these petitioners (non-citizens and alleged enemy combatants) have the protections of the Suspension Clause?


Yes, these petitioners have the protections of the Suspension Clause; the MCA‘s suspension of habeas corpus is unconstitutional.


Justice Roberts (with Scalia, Thomas, and Alito)

The protections built into the MCA are actually plenty protective of detainees’ rights. These issues are inherently political and should be handled by the political branches (and not the judiciary).

Justice Scalia (with Roberts, Thomas, and Alito)

There has actually been no suspension of habeas corpus, and therefore this new grant of a constitutional right to habeas corpus is unwarranted.


Justice Souter (with Ginsburg and Breyer)

Emphasize two things: 1.) there is a constitutional basis to habeas corpus, and 2.) this is significant because these people could be held indefinitely; the stakes are higher.


The Framers understood habeas corpus to be a protection against tyrannical governmental actions, ensuring personal liberty.

The government argues that there is no right to the Suspension Clause for people in Guantanamo because it is not within the U.S.’s sovereign control. The petitioners argued that the U.S. has de facto sovereignty over that territory, and the Court agreed.

The Constitution grants Congress and the President to acquire, dispose of, and govern territory. It does not give them the power to decide when and where the Constitution applies. Thus, the Suspension Clause applies in this case, and the detainees have the right to habeas corpus.

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