Minneapolis attorneys win key Supreme Court verdict on Gitmo detainees

Even though his client had won, Jim Dorsey hadn’t had time as of mid-afternoon Thursday to read the U.S. Supreme Court decision released hours before that said the U.S. government has got to either try the 240 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, or let them go.

“I’ve got it printed out, and I’m going to sit on my pontoon boat tonight and read it,” he said.

But from the crush of email in his in-box, Dorsey had read enough to know the court had extended the American right to a civil trial to the non-Americans who are being held.

In a 5-to4 decision (PDF), Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote  that the Military Commissions Act, passed by Congress in an attempt to find a solution  for the problem of what to do with the detainees,  is  “not an adequate and effective substitute for habeas corpus” and, in fact,  is “unconstitutional.”

Four justices — Anton Scalia, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito — dissented. Scalia, writing for Thomas and Alito, strongly disagreed with the majority. “Today the Court warps our Constitution,” he wrote, adding, “The Nation will live to regret what the Court has done today.”

Dorsey and three other Minneapolis attorneys, John Lundquist, Nicole Moen and Debra Schneider, represented Ahcene Zemiri, an Algerian who has been detained in Gitmo since spring 2002 without a trial.

Dorsey predicted that the district judges would appoint a “gold-plated” special master to oversee the administration of the 240 cases.

He said the prisoners can be divided into thirds – one group the government wants to send home, another the government wants to send to trial, and a final group that the government would like to neither send home nor try.

Dorsey doesn’t know into which category his client falls, but noted that no Algerians or Yemenis have been sent home, while many other nationals have.

Zemiri acknowledges he once borrowed a camera from the Millennium Bomber, with whom he played soccer, Dorsey said.

“Zemiri knew the Millennium Bomber,” Dorsey said, noting, however, that knowing someone who broke the law doesn’t mean that a person is guilty of similar behaivor.

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