Bush judges to decide Guant

Think appellate court nominations don't really matter? Consider this.

Published July 8, 2005 4:24PM (EDT)

It's a coincidence -- an accident of the automated process that randomly assigns cases to judge -- but it underscores the importance of the fight over judicial nominees: When the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit takes up the question of the rights of foreign nationals being held at Guantánamo Bay, two of the three judges who decide the case will be just-confirmed nominees of George W. Bush.

In January, one U.S. District Court judge in Washington ruled that the president has the authority to detain "enemy combatants" at Guantánamo for as long as the war against al Qaida and the Taliban may last -- and that federal courts have little if anything to say about. Two weeks later, another federal judge reached nearly the opposite conclusion, holding that the detainees at Guantánamo have constitutional rights that military tribunals aren't protecting.

The two cases are before the D.C. Circuit now, and as SCOTUSblog notes today, the court has just announced the names on the three-judge panel that will hear them: Judith Rogers, Thomas Griffith and Janice Rogers Brown. Rogers has been on the court since 1994, but Griffith and Brown have been there less than a month, having been confirmed by the Senate in the wake of the nuclear option-averting compromise struck by the "Gang of 14."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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