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The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month to hear Guant�namo Bay detainees’ appeals in its next term has had a ripple effect in the lower courts. At least three judges in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia have issued orders stalling the dismissal of several habeas cases, against the protestations of the government. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, in its ruling on Boumediene v. Bush, issued a June 27 mandate — two days before the Supreme Court reversed course and decided to hear the case — stripping the district courts of jurisdiction. But the district judges say the mandate is wishy-washy on jurisdiction in light of the Supreme Court’s surprise move. Judge John Bates, in denying the government’s motion to dismiss a habeas case, wrote last week, “This Court recognizes that the D.C. Circuit’s ruling in Boumediene remains, at least for now, controlling precedent with respect to the Guantanamo detainees. But that decision does not definitively resolve the jurisdictional questions raised by this case.” An order from Senior Judge Gladys Kessler asked counsel for “further briefings on what, if any, effect the Supreme Court’s granting of certiorari has on this court’s jurisdiction.” And Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle flatly denied the government’s motion to dismiss in six habeas cases, pending the Supreme Court’s decision in Boumediene and Al Odah v. United States. By preserving their jurisdiction, if temporarily, the judges are also preserving existing court orders that protect evidence, prevent transfer of the detainees without warning, and secure lawyers’ access to their clients in Guant�namo.
Joe Palazzolo can be contacted at [email protected].

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