Law, Justice and Society
Text book is Law, Justice and Society Book by Anthony Walsh & Craig Hemmens/second edition
The case of Hamdan v Rumsfeld (2006), tells us a lot about law and justice in our society.
Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni man who was a driver for Osama bin Laden, was captured in 2001 in Afghanistan and later transferred to a military base in Guantanamo Bay. Hamdan charged with war crimes and aiding the 9-11 terrorists, is ordered to stand trial before a military commission. .
America had not had military war trials since WWII, and President Bush who had the power as commander in chief to establish military commissions decided that the old rules that guided war tribunals in past did not apply to terrorists. Because the detainees were held at a military base in Cuba, it was also the position of the administration that the detainees were not entitled to challenge their cases in American courts, nor was the Geneva Convention applicable. All proceedings were to take place in secret since classified information was involved. In essence, the President was making up the rules as he went.
Next add into the mix that a patriotic US Navy Jag officer is appointed to defend Hamdan. Lt Cmdr Swift takes his defense responsibilities very seriously no matter how unsympathetic his client may be. Swift does not like the fact that the traditional rules of fairness are being bypassed by the military and the administration in order to secure quick convictions. With the assistance of a law professor, Swift decides to sue the military on Hamdan’s behalf challenging the military commissions procedures.
What follows is an epic legal battle that challenged the Presidents authority and ultimately resulted in a landmark US Supreme Court decision.
The Hamdan case parallels our readings in the primary text and touches on many of the constitutional doctrines and sociolegal concepts that we will be discussing during the course. The paper should address the following questions,
1. Was the Hamdan decision an example judicial activism or strict construction?
2. How does this decision impact society at large?
3. Does this decision strengthen or weaken the social contract?
4. What are the costs benefits to society of this decision?
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