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NY Civil Rights Lawyer at Center of Detainee Case

December 6, 2007

New York, NY — A New York civil rights lawyer has played a major role in preparing the case argued before the Supreme Court this week, concerning the legal rights of Guantanamo Detainees. Michael Ratner, who heads up the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, says a core Constitutional right is on trial: the right to a day in court.

"What's at stake is whether the President can simply pick people up, anywhere in the world, throw them into some offshore prison facility, and deny them any right to go to court and test their detention. If you don't have that right in a society, you essentially have a police state."

Lawyers for the Bush Administration argued the detainees have sufficient opportunities to challenge their detentions. Ratner says the key in this case is getting the right to the hearing. He says whenever the Administration has been forced to show proof, they have "folded," and he predicts the vast majority of defendants will be found innocent.

Ratner started defending these controversial cases right after the 9/11 attacks, when few other lawyers were willing to take them on. Tram Nguyen with Color Lines Magazine says the Guantanamo Detainee Case concerns a rule of law that's just as important to an immigrant living in New York as it is to a detainee stuck in Guantanamo.

"It's about what happens to the most vulnerable people, the people who don't have political rights, whose only recourse is through the courts. I think that, for immigrants here, there is a similar question of due process."

Next week, Ratner and the Center for Constitutional Rights will receive a $100,000 Puffin/Nation Award for creative citizenship in defending the rule of law. Ratner has been involved in all three of the detainee cases that have made their way to the nation's highest court.

Michael Clifford/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - NY