Supreme Court Ruling Limits President’s Power to Detain Legal Residents

One Paragraph Ruling Erases Lower Court Verdict, Leaves Question Open

Though they left open the question of presidential orders to detain legal residents by refusing to take up the case of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, the Supreme Court made a significant statement against such detentions by vacating a split 2008 decision by the Court of Appeals which claimed that the president had been given the right to declare legal residents enemy combatants by Congress.

Jonathan Hafetz, the lead counsel for al-Marri, said the ruling “should make clear that in the United States no president can imprison legal residents or American citizens without charges or trial by calling them ‘enemy combatants.’

Though the government did not contest the ruling, the Justice Department maintains that “any future detention — were that hypothetical possibility ever to occur — would require new consideration under then-existing circumstances” – leaving the door at least somewhat open to Obama or some future president attempting to resurrect the practice. Today’s ruling at least removes the legal precedent set by the appeals court.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of