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Case Name Yaser Esam Hamdi v. Rumsfeld NS-VA-0005
Docket / Court 2:02-cv-439 ( E.D. Va. )
Additional Docket(s) CA-02-348-2  [ 02-3482 ]  Eastern District of VA (U.S.)
CA-02-382-2  [ 02-3822 ]  Eastern District of VA (U.S.)
State/Territory Virginia
Case Type(s) National Security
Case Summary
Yaser Esam Hamdi was captured by American military forces in Afghanistan as an alleged member of the Taliban. He was transported with his unit from Afghanistan to a prison in Afghanistan before being moved again to Guantanamo Bay. When American officials discovered that Hamdi was an American ... read more >
Yaser Esam Hamdi was captured by American military forces in Afghanistan as an alleged member of the Taliban. He was transported with his unit from Afghanistan to a prison in Afghanistan before being moved again to Guantanamo Bay. When American officials discovered that Hamdi was an American citizen, he was transported to the Norfolk Naval Brig. While detained in Norfolk, he was denied access to counsel.

On May 10, 2002, the Federal Public Defender for the Eastern District of Virginia filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2242 as “next friend” of Yaser Esam Hamdi, a detainee captured as an alleged enemy combatant during military operations in Afghanistan. Christian Peregrim, a private citizen, also filed a petition on behalf of Hamdi. Both petitions were filed in the Eastern District of Virginia. After a hearing on May 29, the district court consolidated the two petitions. The district court determined that the petitions were properly filed and ordered the Public Defender to have unmonitored access to Hamdi. The court mandated that 72 hours from the time of the decision, the Public Defender would interview Hamdi if Hamdi so desired. The government sought a stay pending appeal on May 31, which the Fourth Circuit granted.

On June 26, 2002, the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision. 294 F.3d 598. In an opinion written by Judge Wilkinson, the Court found that Hamdi was inaccessible and thus could not appear on his own behalf, but determined that neither the Public Defender nor Peregrim had a preexisting relationship with Hamdi to satisfy the second element of the “next friend” test. The Fourth Circuit did not specify how significant such a relationship must be to satisfy the test, but simply determined that the lack of any preexisting relationship failed the test. As such, the court reversed the district court’s decision and remanded the case to be dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

While the Public Defender and Peregrim’s petitions were still pending, Hamdi’s father filed a separate writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241 & 2242, also in the Eastern District of Virginia and also before Judge Doumar. The petition alleged that the government’s detention of Hamdi without charges, access to a judicial tribunal, or the right to counsel violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights as an American citizen. The petition sought declaratory relief asserting the unlawfulness of Hamdi’s detention, injunctive relief to cease all interrogations of Hamdi during litigation, and the release of Hamdi from detention. On June 11, the Court determined that (unlike the Public Defender and Peregrim), under the Fourth Circuit's test, Hamdi’s father could proceed as “next friend” and appointed the Public Defender as counsel for Hamdi. The Court ordered that Hamdi, his father, the Public Defender, and an interpreter would have an unmonitored meeting. The district court stayed the order to allow the government to appeal.

On July 12, 2002, the Fourth Circuit again reversed and remanded the district court’s decision. 296 F.3d 278. This time, again in an opinion written by Judge Wilkinson, the Fourth Circuit found that the district court failed to consider the consequences of its order on national security. The Court stated that Hamdi had been classified by the government as an “enemy combatant,” which restricts his access to counsel. The Fourth Circuit noted the separation of powers implications in this case, and determined that the lower court did not grant proper deference due to the purported national security interests. The Fourth Circuit instructed the district court to consider the most cautious procedures first, on remand.

On August 5, 2002, the defendants moved to dismiss the petition. The defendants conceded that Hamdi’s status was subject to judicial review, but argued that it had provided sufficient factual basis for the district court to dismiss the writ of habeas corpus. The defendants attached a declaration from Special Advisor to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michael Mobbs to their response. The Mobbs Declaration “set forth . . . the sole evidentiary support” for Hamdi’s status as an unlawful enemy combatant. Relying on his involvement in the detention of enemy combatants and familiarity with the “facts and circumstances” of Hamdi’s capture, Mobbs said that Hamdi “traveled to Afghanistan” in July or August 2001, “affiliated with a Taliban military unit and received weapons training,” and was with his unit when it “surrendered” to the coalition forces. Judge Doumar, in an opinion decided on August 14, found that the declaration fell short of justifying Hamdi’s detention. 243 F. Supp. 2d 527. Judge Doumar acknowledged the deference afforded to political branches in matters of military affairs, but also determined that courts are entitled to judicial review when military designations of individuals infringe on constitutional liberties of American citizens. The court found that the Mobbs Declaration (see text of Mobbs Declaration here), only two pages long, failed to adequately explain why Hamdi was being detained or the authority that a “Special Advisor” possesses in regards to classification of enemy combatants. As such, Judge Doumar found the document was insufficient to determine whether the screening criteria used to classify Hamdi violated the detainee’s Fifth Amendment rights. In order to conduct a meaningful judicial review, the district court ordered the defendants to produce additional documents related to Hamdi’s detention, including Hamdi’s statements from interviews, the names of interrogators who questioned Hamdi, and information about the circumstances of Hamdi’s capture. The defendants filed an interlocutory appeal on August 19 and moved to stay the proceedings.

In an opinion written by Judge Wilkinson on January 8, 2003, the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court’s order and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the petition. 316 F.3d 450. Hamdi’s petition and various amici argued for relief on two legal grounds. First, they argued that there is no congressional sanction for his incarceration, and therefore 18 U.S.C. § 4001 (“[n]o citizen shall be imprisoned or otherwise detained by the United States except pursuant to an Act of Congress”) prohibits his continued detention. The Fourth Circuit rejected this argument, finding that Congress authorized the President to “use all necessary and appropriate force” against those that planned or aided in the terrorist attacks. The Court stated that the detention of enemy combatants prevented them from rejoining the enemy forces, and alleviated American military commanders of the need to litigate the circumstances of capture in the midst of armed conflict. Second, the petitioners argued that Hamdi’s detention violated Article 5 of the Geneva Convention. The Court rejected this argument too, finding that the Geneva Convention is not self-executing. Having rejected both forms of relief sought by petitioners, the court also determined that the district court’s production order could not stand. The court noted the district court’s production order risked “standing the warmaking powers of Articles I and II on their heads.” Such extensive production related to sensitive matters, the Fourth Circuit found, would be too costly in terms of efficiency and morale of American forces. Finally, when deciding whether to remand with orders to dismiss or proceed further, the Fourth Circuit determined that the Mobbs Declaration was sufficient justification for detention and ordered the petition to be dismissed. The authority for Hamdi’s detention derived from the President’s war power under Article II, Section 2. When it applied a deferential review to the Mobbs Declaration, the Fourth Circuit found it sufficient to support Hamdi’s continued detention. The Court determined that Hamdi could not rebut the government’s factual assertions in an Article III court because doing so would encroach into the executive branch’s military powers.

On July 9, 2003, the Fourth Circuit denied the petitioners’ motion for rehearing en banc. 337 F.3d 335. Judge Wilkinson and Judge Traxler wrote concurring opinions explaining their reasons for denying the petitioners’ motion. Judge Luttig and Judge Motz filed dissenting opinions articulating why they would have granted the motion. The Supreme Court granted certiorari on January 9, 2004. 124 S. Ct. 981.

The Supreme Court published its decision on June 28, 2004 in which it vacated the Fourth Circuit’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. 542 U.S. 507. Justice O’Connor wrote the plurality opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice Kennedy, and Justice Breyer. The defendants defined “enemy combatant” in this situation as someone who was “part of or supporting forces hostile to the United States or coalition partners” in Afghanistan and who allegedly “engaged in an armed conflict against the United States.” Therefore, the Court addressed the narrow question of whether the detention of citizens falling within that definition is not authorized.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) authorizes the President to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against “nations, organizations, or persons” associated with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Justice O’Connor found that members of the Taliban would fall within the category of people that Congress considered in passing the AUMF, and therefore the President has the authority to detain them as part of his “necessary and appropriate” powers to prevent them from returning to the battlefield. This legislative authority extends only to those individuals determined to be enemy combatants with sufficient clarity; the Court did not opine on whether detention is lawful where that designation was disputed.

Assuming that Hamdi was legally detained, Justice O’Connor considered whether he was afforded his procedural due process rights. Applying the Mathews v. Eldridge test, the Court found that Hamdi’s private interest is the most elemental of liberty interests--the interest in being free from physical detention by one’s own government. On the other side of the scale, the Court noted the Government’s weighty interests in ensuring that enemy combatants do not return to the battlefield. The Court held that a citizen-detainee seeking to challenge his classification as an enemy combatant must receive notice of the factual basis for his classification, and a fair opportunity to rebut the Government’s factual assertions before a neutral decision maker.

Justice Souter, joined by Justice Ginsburg, wrote an opinion that concurred in the judgment, but dissented in the reasoning. Justice Souter found that Hamdi’s detention was forbidden by 18 U.S.C. § 4001, and therefore he determined that the other constitutional questions reached by the plurality opinion were unnecessary.

Justice Scalia wrote a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Stevens which argued that, based on historical precedent, the government had only two options to detain Hamdi: either Congress must suspend the right to habeas corpus, or Hamdi must be tried under normal criminal law. But Justice Scalia found that it was improper for the Court to establish new procedures that would be applicable in a challenge to Hamdi's detention.

Justice Thomas wrote a separate dissenting opinion that essentially affirmed the Fourth Circuit’s broad view of executive power, and found the judicial branch lacking in the expertise and capacity needed to second-guess the executive’s wartime decision.

On remand, Hamdi filed an amended petition for writ of habeas corpus on August 25, 2004. On October 5, the Court ordered that the government either return Hamdi to Saudi Arabia or else present him for an evidentiary hearing along with copies of all statements made by Hamdi. The government elected to return Hamdi to Saudi Arabia, and the evidentiary documents remained under seal. The case was dismissed with prejudice after the parties settled on October 12, 2004. The settlement agreement included provisions outlining Hamdi's return to Saudi Arabia, his renunciation of terrorism and the Taliban, and stipulations around future travel restrictions for Hamdi. The case is now closed.

Justin Hill - 07/01/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
International law
Over/Unlawful Detention
Placement in detention facilities
Terrorism/Post 9-11 issues
National Origin/Ethnicity
Arab/Afgani/Middle Eastern
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Habeas
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Habeas Corpus, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2253; 2254; 2255
Defendant(s) Secretary of Defense
Plaintiff Description US citizen detained as an alleged "enemy combatant"
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Habeas relief
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filed 05/10/2002
Case Closing Year 2004
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Hamdi v. Rumsfeld Oral Arguments
Oyez
Date: Apr. 28, 2004
(Oyez)
Citation: Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/cases/2003/03-6696 (last visited Jul 5, 2020).
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Hamdi v. Rumsfeld: Judicious Balancing at the Intersection of the Executive's Power to Detain and the Citizen-Detainee's Right to Due Process
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology
Date: Spring 2005
By: James B. Anderson (Northwestern Faculty)
Citation: James B. Anderson, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld: Judicious Balancing at the Intersection of the Executive's Power to Detain and the CitizenDetainee's Right to Due Process, 95 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 689 (2004-2005)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:02-cv-00439-RGD-JEB (E.D. Va.)
NS-VA-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/11/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 13] (294 F.3d 598)
NS-VA-0005-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/26/2002
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 21] (296 F.3d 278)
NS-VA-0005-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/12/2002
Source: Google Scholar
Order [ECF# 43] (243 F.Supp.2d 527) (E.D. Va.)
NS-VA-0005-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/16/2002
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (316 F.3d 450)
NS-VA-0005-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/08/2003
Source: Google Scholar
Order (337 F.3d 335) (E.D. Va.)
NS-VA-0005-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/09/2003
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (542 U.S. 507)
NS-VA-0005-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/28/2004
Source: Google Scholar
Stipulation of Dismissal
NS-VA-0005-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 09/15/2004
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Judges Breyer, Stephen Gerald (First Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
NS-VA-0005-0007
Doumar, Robert George (E.D. Va.) show/hide docs
NS-VA-0005-0004 | NS-VA-0005-9000
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
NS-VA-0005-0007
Kennedy, Anthony McLeod (Ninth Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
NS-VA-0005-0007
Luttig, J. Michael (Fourth Circuit) show/hide docs
NS-VA-0005-0006
Motz, J. Frederick (D. Md.) show/hide docs
NS-VA-0005-0006
O'Connor, Sandra Day (SCOTUS) show/hide docs
NS-VA-0005-0007
Souter, David Hackett (First Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
NS-VA-0005-0007
Traxler, William Byrd Jr. Court not on record show/hide docs
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Wilkins, Robert Leon (D.D.C., D.C. Circuit) show/hide docs
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Wilkinson, J. Harvie III Court not on record show/hide docs
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Plaintiff's Lawyers Dunham, Frank W. Jr (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Kamens, Geremy C. (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Shelton, Larry W. (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Wagner, Robert J. (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Defendant's Lawyers Clement, Paul D. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Fisher, Alice (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Garre, Gregory G. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Leonard, Lawrence Richard (Virginia) show/hide docs
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McNulty, Paul J (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Salmons, David B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Other Lawyers Bartram, Darin R (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Benjamin, Steven (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Casey, Lee A (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Eisenberg, Arthur (New York) show/hide docs
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Glenberg, Rebecca Kim (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Goldfaden, Robin Lisa (California) show/hide docs
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Goodman, William Harry (New York) show/hide docs
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Guttentag, Lucas (New York) show/hide docs
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Kadidal, Shayana (New York) show/hide docs
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Olshansky, Barbara J. (New York) show/hide docs
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Ratner, Michael (New York) show/hide docs
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Rehkopf, Donald (New York) show/hide docs
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Rivkin, David B (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Shapiro, Steven R. (New York) show/hide docs
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Wedgwood, Ruth (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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