Restore Habeas Corpus

Overview of Habeas Corpus

Habeas Corpus is a summons order the court addresses to a custodian. This means when the writ is issued, the prisoner or the accused along with proof of the custodian’s legal authority should be brought to court. Otherwise, the accused is to be released from custody.

People have used this as a safeguard from imprisonment. It doesn’t declare any principle or rights. Instead, it makes sure the subject is able to practice individual liberty. Under the U.S. Constitution, the procedure may be suspended in emergency situations.

Habeas Corpus in the US Constitution

The writ of habeas corpus has been integrated into the Constitution of the United States. Prisoners are allowed the right to petition for such in order to prevent unlawful imprisonment. However, the US Constitution states certain limitations to the right of a prisoner to appeal for the writ of habeas corpus in certain situations.

The subject may first be under the custody of the authority of the United States or committed to stand trial before any US court. The subject may also be in custody for an act done or omitted in pursuance of an act of congress. However, the process may be suspended in case of war, invasion, and national emergencies.

Habeas Corpus Limited by President Lincoln in 1861

President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the civil war. He wanted to make sure nothing would get in the way of winning the war. It was also his response to riots, local militia, and the threats of secession. He considered the survival of the Union more important than the need for it to continue in a constitutional manner.

Habeas Corpus Limited by the US Congress in 1864

In 1864, Congress limited the jurisdiction of the writ of habeas corpus because of threats to the security of the Union. The same limitations applied when Lincoln did this, and the only difference was it already had the support of the Congress.

It was not the writ that was suspended. It was the privilege of the writ that was placed on hold. The court had to determine if the petitioning person can proceed.

Habeas Corpus Limited by President Grant in 1870 and 1871

Ulysses S. Grant suspended the writ of habeas corpus in order to safeguard the community. This was America’s first war on terrorism, as they fought against the Ku Klux Klan. He did it because he wanted to make sure that no one got away, primarily because some members of the government secretly supported the organization. This meant that there was enough leverage for the Klan to get out of prison whenever they got thrown in. However, it did not end there. The writ of habeas corpus was again suspended the following year in order to promote development and industrialization.

Habeas Corpus Limited by the Supreme Court in 1942

In 1942, it was decided upon by the Supreme Court that combatant saboteurs, being rebels in nature (in the eyes of government), could actually be denied of habeas corpus even if habeas corpus is actually a right of a suspect or even a prisoner. Its legitimacy is found in the US Constitution. What happened during this time was that the simple appeal for release or due process was not accessible to the unlawfully detained. It was also during this time when there was a controversial detention of prisoners because of ethnicity and military whim. This Supreme Court decision was heavily criticized because of its backlash towards the principles of democracy (fairness, due process, and justice).

Habeas Corpus Limited by the Supreme Court in 1950

In 1950, there was a controversial document that revealed an appeal of suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus, the right to due process before detention, written by Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, then the director of the FBI. His proposal was running along the lines of “apprehending potential dangers to national security”.

He produced a list of about 12,000 people, 97% Americans, supposed to be detained PERMANENTLY without due process. The odd thing about this proposal was these “radicals” may have the right to a hearing. However, the hearings “will not be bound by rules of evidence”.

This proposal was sent to the White house only a week after the beginning of the Korean War. Hoover’s exact proposal was not approved by the Supreme Court. However, the Congress passed a law that authorized detention during a national emergency.

In the last quarter of 1950, during the time when China increased the tension in the Korean War, a national emergency was actually declared. However, there was no direct mention of Hoover’s proposal.

Habeas Corpus Limited by President Clinton in 1996

In 1996, there was a bombing in Oklahoma City. The Congress passed a bill meant to deter terrorism and provide an effective death penalty. President Clinton signed this into law later on. This impacted on the writ of habeas corpus by not allowing prisoners to petition for it for a year of their incarceration. It also limited the power of federal judges to grant relief.

Habeas Corpus Limited by President Bush in 2001

In 2001, the time of the world-shaking 9-11 attacks rumored to be headed by Islamic fundamentalist radicals, President Bush suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus. He justified that “public safety” was endangered by certain “invasions” and purveyors of societal destruction. He claimed that this step was a response towards raising awareness on the Global War Against Terrorism and how this step was more defensive than offensive. During the last quarter of this year, the Pentagon was advised by the US Department of Justice to keep detainees in Guantanamo Bay away from “legal exposure”. This means the review on habeas corpus should not be done in light of the Guantanamo detainees because it might threaten the principles behind the constitution.

Habeas Corpus Limited by the US Congress in 2006

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 removes habeas corpus from any person deemed an unlawful enemy combatant. This also removed the right of appeal, which eliminated any possibility of habeas corpus for non-citizens. The US executive branch of administration was responsible for determining the status of the subject. This was because a war was going on at that time. The main objective of the MCA was to speed up trials for efficiency to be achieved.

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