Supreme Indecision or Insightfulness?

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Is today’s rejection of an appeal from Jose Padilla a case of SCOTUS playing dodgeball?

A divided Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from Jose Padilla, held as an enemy combatant without traditional legal rights for more than three years, sidestepping a challenge to Bush administration wartime detention powers.

Padilla, a former Chicago gang member and a convert to Islam, was moved in January to Miami to face criminal charges, and the government argued that the appeal over his indefinite detention was now pointless.

Three justices said the court should have agreed to take up the case anyway: Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

And three other court members, including Chief Justice John Roberts, said that they would be watching to ensure Padilla receives the protections “guaranteed to all federal criminal defendants.”

Perhaps more like tightrope walking to ensure the Court does not overstep its bounds?

Justices are reviewing a second case arising from the government pursuit of terrorists, an appeal by a foreign terrorist suspect facing a military commission on war crimes charges at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Arguments were last week.

Padilla’s case was different. It asked the court to clarify how far the government can go when its hunt for terrorists leads to Americans in this country.

Based on the vote breakdown, it appears the court would have agreed to hear the appeal had Padilla not been charged.

“In light of the previous changes in his custody status and the fact that nearly four years have passed since he first was detained, Padilla, it must be acknowledged, has a continuing concern that his status might be altered again,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for himself, Stevens and Roberts. “That concern, however, can be addressed if the necessity arises.”

So, how do you view today’s Padilla appeal rejection?

Is it a demonstration of a well-balanced Court respecting constitutional boundaries?

or

An example of the denial of personal rights and freedoms?

Even though this is far from a black and white issue, I have a feeling that’s how much of the debate surrounding the decision will be portrayed.

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