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US Appeals Court Agrees To Hearing Of Iraq Case

SCOOP LINKS: A series of links to stories concerning the progress of a US First Circuit Court of Appeals case seeking to restrain the US Administration from going to war in Iraq. In the latest development the court has surprisingly moved to hear the case.



Appeals Court Revives Members' Suit to Stop War
March 10, 2003
By Damon Chappie,
Roll Call Staff

Acting with surprising speed, a federal appeals court in Boston has revived a lawsuit seeking to block President Bush from launching an attack against Iraq without a formal declaration of war approved by Congress. The constitutional challenge - filed by a dozen House Democrats and a number of military members and their families - was dismissed Feb. 24 by a lower-court judge who ruled that the dispute was not an issue to be settled in the courts. But in a rare move that signaled heightened interest in the matter, a three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency motion to hear an appeal of the lower-court ruling with an expedited argument and briefing schedule. An emergency hearing was held last week and the panel asked for both sides to submit briefs in the case by Tuesday, indicating that it would issue a ruling quickly.

The panel is made up of two judges appointed by former President George H.W. Bush and a third judge appointed by former President Bill Clinton. Normally, such appeals can take months to reach the ears of appellate judges. While the plaintiffs are fighting an uphill battle to win judicial intervention in an area of law that courts have traditionally avoided, the quick action of the appellate judges could indicate a renewed judicial interest in a question deeply rooted in the Constitution. A judicial voice on the question of war may have an unexpected impact on the political discussion that appears to be reaching a climax. A decision in December 1990 by U.S. District Judge Harold Greene that dismissed a challenge to the pending Persian Gulf War by 54 Members of Congress nonetheless electrified the debate because the judge ruled that only Congress could declare war.

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article | Posted March 5, 2003
Challenging the Rush to War
by John Nichols

Considering the fact that the Bush Administration is the planet's primary proponent of war with Iraq, Nancy Lessin wants to know why the US Congress has failed to follow the example of parliaments around the world that are debating whether a war is necessary. "When we look at the world community, we see that they had a debate in the Parliament of Turkey. They had a debate in the Parliament of Great Britain. They are having serious debates in legislative bodies all over the world, and yet there is no debate in Congress," says Lessin, the mother of a 25-year-old Marine who has been dispatched to the Persian Gulf.

Lessin and other parents of troops serving in the Gulf have joined US soldiers and a dozen members of Congress as plaintiffs in a lawsuit that seeks to bar President Bush from ordering an attack on Iraq without a Congressional declaration of war. "If the rest of the world can debate this war, then America can as well. Our Constitution requires that debate," says Lessin, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO's health and safety coordinator, whose son Joe is among the almost 300,000 US troops who have already been sent to the Gulf. "If the President starts this war without a declaration from Congress, he will violate the Constitution. And I do not want our troops being ordered to fight an unconstitutional war." On Tuesday, Lessin sat in a federal courthouse in Boston, where a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit heard arguments regarding the suit that she sees as an essential step in reasserting democracy in America. The lawsuit, which is the premier legal challenge to the President's authority to wage war against Iraq, looked to be going nowhere when it was dismissed by Federal Judge Joseph Tauro in mid-February. But the plaintiffs' lead attorney in the case, Boston lawyer John Bonifaz, filed a successful motion for expedited review before the appellate court. On Tuesday, Bonifaz faced off against top lawyers for John Ashcroft's Department of Justice before Judges Sandra Lynch, Conrad Cyr and Norman Stahl.



Court hears request to block invasion
5 March 2003

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit yesterday took under advisement a request by a group of US soldiers, their parents, and 12 congressmen to block an invasion of Iraq. The antiwar group, whose suit seeking an injunction against President Bush was dismissed on Feb. 27 by a federal judge in Boston, argued that a war without a congressional declaration would be illegal. John C. Bonifaz, chief attorney for the group, argued that Congress abdicated its responsibility when it passed a resolution in October authorizing Bush to use force in Iraq. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gregory Katsas told the panel US forces have fought more than 100 times without a formal declaration of war.




His War's In Court
March 5, 2003

The argument is beautiful in its simplicity. Could it really keep America out of war? The argument says George W. Bush doesn't have the legal authority to attack the sovereign nation of Iraq. Doesn't have it, despite all the breathless war talk from the White House. Doesn't have it, despite the 250,000 American troops already in the Persian Gulf and the 60,000 more who were ordered in yesterday. Doesn't have it, despite the resolution Congress approved in October, seeming to hand the president a big, fat, blank war check, cashable in the blood of young Americans. "Only Congress can declare war," John Bonifaz was saying at mid-afternoon, as he rode in a cab to midtown from LaGuardia Airport. He's been saying that a lot these past few weeks. And this too: "Congress cannot cede that constitutional duty to anyone, not even to the president of the United States."

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