The Supreme Court just announced it has agreed to the request by the solicitor general’s office to vacate and remand the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in the case of Ali al-Marri. The justices instructed the 4th Circuit to dismiss the case as moot. In addition, the Court agreed to the Obama administration’s request to transfer al-Marri from military detention to the civilian justice system, where he was indicted last week for giving material aid to a terrorist group. In military custody, he was classified as an enemy combatant.
The Court’s action spells an end to al-Marri’s Supreme Court case, which was set for argument April 27. In that sense, the Court order is a defeat for al-Marri and the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented him. They wanted the Court to keep the case on its docket and overturn the 4th Circuit’s ruling, which upheld the power of President George W. Bush to detain al-Marri indefinitely at a military brig, even though al-Marri was legally in the United States when he was arrested nearly six years ago. But by transferring him to the civilian system, the administration argued that the challenge to the 4th Circuit decision would not change al-Marri's status and therefore was moot.
In a statement in response to the high court action, ACLU staff attorney Jonathan Hafetz said, “While we would have preferred a Supreme Court ruling that U.S. citizens and lawful residents detained in the U.S. cannot be held in military custody as 'enemy combatants' without charges or trial, the Supreme Court nonetheless took an important step today by vacating a lower court decision that had upheld the Bush administration's authority to designate al-Marri as an 'enemy combatant.' Congress never granted the president that authority and the Constitution does not permit it. We trust that the Obama administration will not repeat the abuses of the Bush administration having now chosen to prosecute Mr. al-Marri in federal court rather than defend the Bush administration's actions in this case."