Judge Nixes Feds' Move to Restrict Lawyers at Gitmo

Government confusing 'roles of jailer and judiciary'

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 7, 2012 8:53 AM CDT

(Newser) – The US government was hoping to boost its control over when a Guantanamo detainee could see a lawyer, but a federal judge shot down the effort yesterday. As it stands, private lawyers have a protected right to visit detainees at Guantanamo and make their cases. But the Obama administration argued that following the dismissal of a habeas corpus review—in which detainees can challenge the government's right to hold them—it should be up to officials when and whether detainees can see lawyers for such challenges in the future, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

"Access to the Court means nothing without access to counsel," Chief US District Judge Royce Lamberth wrote. The government, he said, was seeking "final, unreviewable power to delay, hinder, or prevent access to the court," and its argument "confuses the roles of the jailer and the judiciary in our constitutional separation-of-powers scheme." The current rules haven't posed any security problems, he added. Of course, he noted, "had ... the Obama administration closed the Guantánamo Bay detention facility as it promised, the court’s protective order would no longer have any effect."

In this May 13, 2009 file photo reviewed by the U.S. military, the sun rises over the Guantanamo detention facility at dawn.
In this May 13, 2009 file photo reviewed by the U.S. military, the sun rises over the Guantanamo detention facility at dawn.   (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, file)
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