Busy day for Supreme Court
The Supremes customarily decide the easy cases first and save the tough ones for last. (That's why I was amused when, early in the term, the newspapers were saying that the Roberts Court must be stressing collegiality because it was handing down so many unanimous decisions. The 9-0s always tend to come at the beginning of a term, the 5-4s at the end). Now the term is wrapping up, and the Supremes
1. upheld Arizona's insanity defense, which requires a defendant to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that he did not appreciate that what he did was wrong. It didn't include the first alternative of the common law M'Naughton test -- that he was so out of it he didn't appreciate what he was doing. Vote is 5-3, with Breyer concurring in part.
2. Ruled in Hamadan v. Rumsfeld that trying accused terrorists by military tribunal violated the Geneva Convention and the Code of Military Justice, and was not authorized by Congress's broad use of force enactment. Vote is split, four Justices in a plurality, Kennedy in a concurrence, and three in dissent, and Roberts abstaining. Just counting who joined in which parts of the plurality or the dissent will give you a headache.
UPDATE: Scotusblog has an interesting take on it. They say the biggest part of the ruling isn't the narrow result (no tribunals) but that the Supremes hold that the Geneva Convention, as a treaty obligation, governs the war against al-Qaeda. That would mean, among other things, that the rougher interogation techniques were a violation of the Convention, and thus are violations of the War Crimes Act. Comments note some complications -- some provisions bind the signatories as to everyone, others only apply to troops of another signatory, but the latter might apply or might not, dependent upon the citizenship of the detainee. The Counterterrorism Blog thinks Congress should act, and predicts that will be a boost to Republican hopes. Clayton Cramer has an excellent post explaining in plain and concise terms the ruling and the dissent's critique of it.