Appeals Court Will Not Hear Arguments From Retired Judges in Guantanamo Detainees Case

An appeals court considering whether Guantanamo Bay detainees have U.S. constitutional rights said Friday that it will not accept arguments by seven retired federal judges who oppose a new U.S. anti-terrorism law.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is examining whether so-called enemy combatants should be allowed to challenge their detention in U.S. courts. President George W. Bush signed a law this fall forbidding such challenges and the Justice Department says detainees are not protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Seven federal judges from both political parties filed friend-of-the-court briefs in November urging the appeals court to declare key parts of the new law unconstitutional. They said the law, which sets up military commissions to hear terror cases, "challenges the integrity of our judicial system" and effectively sanctions the use of torture.

In a 2-1 decision Friday, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said it would not accept that brief on a legal technicality, saying the title "judge" should not be used to describe former judges in legal proceedings.

The panel's more conservative judges, David B. Sentelle and A. Raymond Randolph, issued the opinion with Judge Judith W. Rogers, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, dissenting.

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, said it is unusual for such briefs to be rejected. He said the ruling could indicate a decision in the detainee case is near.