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Media Alerts - Janko v. Gates
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January 17, 2014
  Janko v. Gates
Headline: D.C. Circuit finds no federal court jurisdiction to hear claims of inmate "properly detained" by the executive branch at Guantanamo Bay for injuries sustained during detention.

Area of Law: Military Commissions Act, Separation of Powers

Issue Presented: Whether Congress conferred authority on the federal courts to hear actions brought by an alien determined by the executive branch to have been properly detained and, if it has not, whether such a withdrawal jurisdiction is unconstitutional.

Brief Summary: Plaintiff, a Syrian citizen detained in Guantanamo for seven years, filed a successful petition for habeas corpus and was released in 2009. Thereafter, he brought suit against the United States to recover damages for injuries sustained during his detention. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia held that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), 28 U.S.C. § 2241(e)(2), ousted it of jurisdiction and dismissed his claims. The court found that the MCA strips the federal courts of jurisdiction for claims relating to an alien's detention if that alien "has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant." On appeal, Janko argued [1] that the district court's prior decision to grant his habeas petition meant that "the United States" had not determined that he was "properly detained," and [2] that section § 2241(e)(2) of the MCA was unconstitutional.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed. The court determined that, because detention of alien combatants is exclusively an executive function, "the United States" meant the executive branch, not all three branches of government, and "determined by the United States" refers to determinations made by Combatant Status Review Tribunals. The court noted that it had previously determined that the term "United States" in section 2241(e)(1) meant the Executive Branch and that Congress presumably intended it to mean the same thing in section 2241(e)(2). Finally, the court observed that Congress had amended the prior version of section 2241(e)(2), which had given the court the responsibility of making the determination of proper detention. The court found that Janko's proffered interpretation would flout Congress's manifest intent in amending the statute to vest determination authority in an entity other than the federal courts.

Turning to Appellant's constitutional arguments, the DC Circuit found that the statute properly applies to an entire class of claims, including Janko's. That court observed, in that regard, that the statute merely removes jurisdiction and does not require that the court decide the case in any particular way, thus steering clear of any incursions on the Article III authority of courts.

For the full text of this opinion, please visit

Panel: Henderson, Rogers, and Tatel

Argument Date: October 22, 2013

Date of Issued Opinion: January 17, 2014

Docket Number: 12-5017

Decided: Affirmed

Case Alert Author: Joseph T. Maher, Jr.

Counsel (if known): Paul L. Hoffman, Terrence P. Collingsworth, Jennifer Green and Judith Brown Chomsky for appellant. Sydney Foster, Stuart F. Delery, Matthew M. Collette, Mary Hampton Mason, and Siegmund F. Fuchs for appellee.

Author of Opinion: Henderson

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Elizabeth Beske, Ripple Weistling

    Posted By: Ripple Weistling @ 01/17/2014 04:53 PM     DC Circuit  

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