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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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September 23, 2005

Luttig Reconsidered

The Padilla case, which came down from the federal appellate courts earlier this month, found for the government. To me, it is a disturbing ruling because it allows the federal government (President Bush) to declare that a certain citizen is an “enemy combatant” in the War on Terror, snatch him up, put him behind bars indefinitely, without trial.

The judge who wrote this decision, Michael Luttig, wrote an appellate decision a few years ago on the federal rape law, the Violence Against Women Act. Luttig ruled against the government then—against federal power and in favor of local power. The government (the Clinton administration) appealed, the case went to the Supreme Court, and Luttig’s position prevailed. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the decision. That was the case of United States v. Morrison, which became one of the famous federalism cases of the Rehnquist court.

I’m a fan of constitutionally limited government. I liked Luttig’s decision in the Morrison case because it limited federal authority and took the Constitution seriously. When Luttig was mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee, I was for him. But in this new case he is ruling for the federal government’s power to throw a U.S. citizen in jail—no, not a jail, a Navy brig—without trial, indefinitely.

Whether he was with the Taliban or not, Padilla is a U.S. citizen. He was arrested in the United States. He gets a trial. John Walker Lindh, arrested in Afghanistan, got a U.S. trial. (Remember him? I believe he got 20 years, too.) Padilla should get a trial. A judge that can’t see that does not belong on the Supreme Court.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at September 23, 2005 05:44 PM



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