Appeals Court Decides, Unasked, To Rehear Maher Arar Case

The Center for Constitutional Rights:

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an extremely rare order that the case of Canadian rendition victim Maher Arar would be heard en banc by all of the active judges on the Second Circuit on December 9, 2008. For the court to issue the order sua sponte, that is, of its own accord without either party submitting papers requesting a rehearing, is even more rare.

“We are very encouraged,” said CCR attorney Maria LaHood. “For the court to take such extraordinary action on its own indicates the importance the judges place on the case and means that Maher may finally see justice in this country. As the dissenting judge noted, the majority’s opinion gave federal officials the license to ‘violate constitutional rights with virtual impunity.’ Now the court has the opportunity to uphold the law and hold accountable the U.S. officials who sent Maher to be tortured.”

Christy Hardin Smith notes the legal significance:

The legal beagles out there know how rare a sua sponte decision for rehearing is. That someone at the appeals court reviewed the panel decision and evidence and decided further review was warranted — and then managed to convince a majority of the appeals court judges to vote for an en banc rehearing? That says that someone caught something troubling in the filings or the arguments. The big question is: what caught their eyes?

En banc means the entire appeals court bench will hear the case, not just a three judge panel. Which is a very big deal, because that means that whatever the issues in question are, the full court feels they are important enough to be addressed emphatically. And they determined this on their own without being prodded yet by counsel. Very, very intriguing.

One Response to “Appeals Court Decides, Unasked, To Rehear Maher Arar Case”

  1. Chief says:

    This is the part that I find so troublesome, from the CCR post

    The court also found these claims could not be heard because they would interfere with U.S. foreign relations and impede national security.

    When ‘national security’ trumps the Constitution we sound like Great Britain and Israel.

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