Monday, February 21, 2005

Secret arguments

This beggars the imagination:

ATTORNEYS FOR the Justice Department appeared before a federal judge in Washington this month and asked him to dismiss a lawsuit over the detention of a U.S. citizen, basing their request not merely on secret evidence but also on secret legal arguments. The government contends that the legal theory by which it would defend its behavior should be immune from debate in court. This position is alien to the history and premise of Anglo-American jurisprudence, which assumes that opposing lawyers will challenge one another's arguments.

I want to write a paper with secret arguments in it. Maybe I can get it accepted in a secret journal! But I'll have to work fast to finish it before the secret police come for me.

Okay, seriously: we have an Attorney General who has claimed that the authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president." Whatever your views on the judicial system are, that should strike you as insane. And this business about secret arguments goes even beyond that. This isn't a matter of disobeying the particular laws that are on the books, it's a matter of doing something that renders the trial unfair no matter what the laws are. When the counsel for the defense isn't even allowed to know what they're defending against, a trial simply can't be fair.

Here's another article about the situation.

Update: I asked, "What do you do when the other guys are making secret arguments? Try to guess what they were and give counterarguments?"

Ira responds: "You start getting your appeal ready. 'They used secret arguments! Overturn it!'"

Let's hope this freakish tactic gets squashed before the appeal. (post above edited for clarity)

1 comment:

David said...

We're going back to the days of priests invested with the divine authority to interpret the Word. Who are we to question their reasoning?