AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities
Terrorism, Enemy Combatants, & Military Prisoners
After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the U.S. government detained hundreds of illegal aliens, pending a determination of their possible connection to terrorist activity. The plaintiffs, six men of Arab or South Asian descent who were among the detainees and were subsequently removed from the country, filed a proposed class action lawsuit against federal executive officials and wardens, seeking damages, and claiming that their “harsh pretrial conditions” were punitive, violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, and were based on race, religion, or national origin. They also asserted that the defendant wardens allowed guards to abuse them. The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected all these claims. In 42 U.S.C. 1983, Congress provided a damages remedy for plaintiffs whose constitutional rights were violated by state officials. There was no corresponding remedy for constitutional violations by federal agents. In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized (in Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, #301, 403 U. S. 388, 91 S. Ct. 1999, 29 L. Ed. 2d 619) an implied damages action for violations of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures by federal agents. The Court later allowed Bivens-type remedies in Fifth Amendment gender-discrimination and Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishments cases. Bivens, however, will not be further extended to a new context if there are “special factors counseling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress.” To avoid interference with sensitive Executive Branch functions or any inquiry into national-security issues, the Court ruled, a Bivens remedy should not be extended to the claims concerning confinement conditions. With respect to the wardens, Congress did not provide a damages remedy against federal jailers in the Prison Litigation Reform Act 15 years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s expressed caution about extending Bivens. Qualified immunity bars the claims of conspiracy to violate civil rights under 42 U.S.C. 1985(3). Reasonable officials in the defendants’ positions would not have known with sufficient certainty that section 1985(3) prohibited their joint consultations and the resulting policies. There was no clearly established law on the issue of whether agents of the same executive department are distinct enough to “conspire” within the meaning of the statute. Ziglar v. Abbasi, #15-1358, 198 L. Ed. 2d 290, 2017 U.S. Lexis 3874.
Detainees at Guantanamo claimed that
two new policies there placed an undue burden on their ability to meet with
their attorneys. The policies related to where they were allowed to meet with
lawyers, while the second involved the thoroughness of the search they had to
submit to before attorney visits. A federal appeals court upheld both policies
as reasonable and related to legitimate security concerns. "Tenuous"
evidence of an improper motive to obstruct access to lawyers could not overcome
the legitimate rational connection between the thorough searches and the
security needs of the facility, and holding all meetings between detainees and
their visitors, including lawyers, at a special camp away from the housing
camps, was reasonable, as fewer guards were then needed. Hatim v. Obama,
#13-5218, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 14759 (D.C. Cir.).
Detainees at Guantanamo Bay who were cleared for release but remain detained there went on a hunger strike demanding their release, and were force fed. A federal appeals court held that they had the right to challenge the conditions of their confinement in a habeas corpus proceeding, and that their claims were not barred by the Military Commissions Act. The prisoners, however, failed to establish that they were entitled to a preliminary injunction against the forced feeding, since it served legitimate penological interests in preserving the lives of the detainees and maintaining security and discipline. They failed to show a likelihood that the force-feeding was unconstitutional. The court also ruled that the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act did not apply to the detainees. As nonresident aliens, they were not protected persons under the statute. Aamer v. Obama, #13-5223, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 2513 (D.C. Cir.).
A former Guantanamo prisoner held as an enemy combatant for seven years was released after being granted habeas corpus. He filed a lawsuit seeking to recover for injuries allegedly suffered during his detention. A federal appeals court ruled that a statute barred claims brought on behalf of aliens if they were determined by the Combat Status Review Tribunals to have been properly detained. The appeals court upheld the constitutionality of the decision by Congress to deny jurisdiction to the courts to entertain such claims. Janko v. Gates, #12-5017, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 934 (D.C. Cir.).
A prisoner convicted of terrorism-related crimes involving the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kenya was subjected to special administrative measures forbidding him from receiving two Arabic language newspapers he had previously received and prohibiting him from corresponding with his nieces and nephews. A federal appeals court rejected a claim that these measures violated his First Amendment rights. The government's interestin restricting his rights was reasonably related to legitimate penological interests, and the prisoner had the burden of showing that there was no legitimate, rational basis for the increased communication restrictions. Given the belief that the prisoner had a "proclivity for violence" based on his conviction for acts of terrorism, the warden expressed the concern that “communications or contacts with persons could result in death or serious bodily injury to persons.” This was a rational basis for the restrictions. The restriction on the Arabic newspaper was similarly upheld as justified by the need to prevent him from receiving information and instructions in a manner difficult to detect. Al-Owhali v. Holder, #11-1274, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 16401 (10th Cir.).
A prisoner (Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen and member of al Qaeda) presently confined after being convicted of terrorism sued various federal officials based on his prior military detention as an "enemy combatant." He asked for an injunction preventing government officials from designating him as an "enemy combatant" in the future and detaining him on that basis and nominal damages of one dollar from each defendant. A federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit. It found that a federal civil rights suit could not be brought against federal officials on these issues due to separation of powers concerns, and the authority over military affairs granted to Congress and the President. The plaintiff also did not have standing to seek to enjoin the possible future designation of the prisoner as an "enemy combatant," since he did not show any immediate and real threat that this would occur. The court also rejected the prisoner's claim that he could sue federal officials under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb, for alleged violations of his religious freedom while he was a military prisoner. Lebron v. Rumsfeld, #11-6480, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 1246 (4th Cir. 2012).
A federal trial court has ruled that the U.S. government has the legal authority to hold and prosecute detainees currently held at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility despite no longer asserting that it seeks to do so on the basis that they are "enemy combatants." The authority of the government to detain persons believed to have been part of terrorist organizations is "entirely consistent with the law of war principles that govern non-international armed conflicts." In Re: Guantanamo Bay Detainee Litigation #05-0763, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 43249 (D.D.C. May 19, 2009).
The U.S. Supreme Court in Boumediene v. Bush, No. 06-1195, 2008 U.S. Lexis 4887, ruled that aliens detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as enemy combatants after their capture in Afghanistan or elsewhere overseas are constitutionally entitled to pursue claims for habeas corpus, and found that the procedures provided in a 2005 statute for review of the detainees' status are inadequate and constitute an unconstitutional suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. In another case, Munaf v. Geren, No. 06-1666, 2008 U.S. Lexis 4888, decided the same day, June 12, 2008, the Court ruled that the habeas corpus statute applies to U.S. citizens held overseas by U.S. military forces, such as in Iraq, even if those forces are operating as a component of an multinational coalition. The U.S. citizens being detained had traveled voluntarily to Iraq and are alleged to have committed crimes there. The Court further ruled, however, that the particular plaintiffs in that case were not entitled to relief to enjoin the U.S. from transferring them to the custody of Iraqi authorities for criminal prosecution.
A man born in Qatari, who was lawfully in the U.S., and who has been detained without charges since 2003, when President Bush designated him as an "enemy combatant," was ordered released by a federal appeals court. The court, by a 2-1 vote, ruled that holding civilians as detainees without charges for an unlimited period of time could result in "disastrous consequences for the Constitution, and the country." The court also found that there was no evidence that the detainee had been engaged in the use of arms against the U.S. on a battlefield or in a combat zone, and was therefore not an enemy combatant. The U.S. government was ordered to release him, within a reasonable time, from military custody. He could still, the court noted, be subjected to either criminal charges, if any were brought, or to deportation proceedings. Al-Marri v. Wright, #06-7427, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 14109 (4th Cir.).
Prisoner's placement on a watch list by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was not a deprivation of a due process liberty or property right, even if it did allegedly result in prison officials placing him in administrative detention at times of elevated national security. Almahdi v. Ridge, No. 04-3120, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 26938 (3rd Cir.). [N/R]
The U.S. Attorney General had statutory authority to determine the place of detention of a detainee in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) while awaiting review of an order for his removal from the country, so that the detainee had no viable federal civil rights claims concerning his transfer to another facility or his detention. Drummond v. State of New York, No. 06-CV-0255, 2006 U.S. Dist. Lexis 80178 (W.D.N.Y.). [N/R]
The U.S. government sought to review materials impounded from various foreign detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after detainees committed suicide or attacked guards, and the prisoners sought the return of documents seized from their cells. Among the papers seized from all detainees there following the incidents, some handwritten notes were on papers stamped "attorney-client privileged" that appear to relate to suicides and other security issues. A federal trial court upheld the government's review of impounded material containing attorney-client communications between detainees and their lawyers, so long as this was done using a "filter litigation team" of personnel, including translators, who would not be involved in future litigation, and would be prohibiting from disclosing any privileged attorney-client communications to anyone other than the court, with an exception for information concerning national security. Hicks (Rasul) v. Bush, No. 02-0299, 2006 U.S. Dist. Lexis 65973 (D.D.C.). [N/R]
The U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-3 vote (with the Chief Justice not participating), holds that the President did not have authority to conduct military tribunal trials for detainees at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and that the military commission convened had a structure and procedures violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the Geneva Conventions. Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, No. 05-184,126 S. Ct. 2749 (2006). [N/R]
Former prisoner's claim that she received inadequate medical care while in custody at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Kansas was properly dismissed, since she had no private right of action, as she sought, for alleged violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture or under any federal law relating to the U.S. government's obligations under that Convention. Renkel v. U.S., No. 05-3420, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 19604 (6th Cir.). [N/R]
U.S. soldier's claim that his Eighth Amendment rights to adequate medical treatment were violated while he was confined at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (USDB) were barred by the doctrine stated in Feres v. United States, 340 U.S. 135 (1950), barring claims by members of the military against the U.S. government under the Federal Tort Claims Act "where the injuries arise out of or are in the course of activity incident to service." Tootle v. USDB Commandant, No. 04-3018, 390 F.3d 1280 (10th Cir. 2004). [N/R]
U.S. Supreme Court rules that foreign nationals detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, captured in Afghanistan hostilities, have a right to access to U.S. courts to challenge the legality of their detention, and that U.S. citizen detained as an "enemy combatant" for allegedly fighting against the U.S. in Afghanistan, also had a due process right to access to a "neutral decision maker" to challenge the factual basis for his detention. In a third case involving a U.S. citizen detained as an "enemy combatant" on U.S. soil for alleged involvement in terrorist conspiracy, Court does not reach ultimate issues because of procedural defects in court filing. Rasul v. Bush, No. 03-334, 2004 U.S. Lexis 4760; Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, No. 03-6696, 2004 U.S. Lexis 4761; Rumsfeld v. Padilla, No. 03-1027, 2004 U.S. Lexis 4759. [2004 JB Aug]
Two Wisconsin inmates did not have standing to sue Middle Eastern nations such as Iran, Iraq, Syria, the Sudan, and Libya, and terrorist groups such as Al Qaida and the Taliban for millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages in a lawsuit filed with the purported intention of "lending a hand" in the war on terrorism. They had personally never been victims of terrorism and were "no more likely than the average American citizen to be victims of future attacks." George v. Islamic Republic of Iran, No. 02-3195, 63 Fed. Appx. 917 (7th Cir. 2003).[N/R]
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft rules that illegal immigrants can be held indefinitely without bond if their cases present national security concerns. The opinion was requested by the Homeland Security Department, which now has authority over most immigration matters, after the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld a judge's decision to release a Haitian asylum-seeker on $2,500 bond. Ashcroft ordered that this decision be vacated, and that the asylum-seeker be denied bond and detained "pending appropriate disposition and proceedings respecting his status under the immigration laws." In Re: D-J-, Respondent, 23 I&N Dec. 572 (A.G. 2003). Interim decision #3448, April 17, 2003. [N/R]
Requirement that a prisoner exhaust available administrative remedies before pursuing a federal civil rights lawsuit applies to pretrial detainees. Plaintiff prisoner's lawsuit seeking his release from special housing unit rejected for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Additionally, despite the allegedly non-violent nature of the crime with which the detainee was charged, the government presented evidence asserted to link him in some way to individuals implicated in the attacks of September 11, 2001, raising significant security issues with regard to the conditions of his pre-trial incarceration. United States of America v. Al-Marri, 239 F. Supp. 2d 366 (S.D.N.Y. 2002). [N/R]