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Media Alerts - Hatim v. Barack Obama - D.C. Circuit
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August 1, 2014
  Hatim v. Barack Obama - D.C. Circuit
Headline: New Guantanamo policies on lawyer meetings are reasonable security precautions

Area of Law: Habeas Corpus; Guantanamo Detainees

Issue(s) Presented: Whether two policies imposing new security measures for detainee meetings with lawyers violate detainees' right to counsel.

Brief Summary: In 2012 and 2013, the government implemented two new policies governing lawyer visits to detainees at Guantanamo Bay. One policy required all lawyer meetings to be held in a nearby camp to which detainees were transported in vans, rather than in the camps where the detainees were housed. The second policy subjected detainees to a "non-invasive search of the genital area" before and after meeting with visitors in conformity with standard military prison procedures. Appellants, a group of detainees, challenged both policies in habeas corpus proceedings, claiming that they had the purpose and effect of discouraging detainees from meeting with their lawyers. Appellants claimed that their poor health made it too difficult to travel by van to the nearby camp and that their religious beliefs prohibited them from submitting to the genital search. They sought an order permitting them to meet with counsel without complying with the new policies. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the motion in part, finding that the new procedures were an "exaggerated response to overstated security concerns" that were principally aimed at restricting access to counsel.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed. The court first concluded that it had jurisdiction to hear the claim given recent circuit precedent allowing challenges to conditions of confinement in a federal habeas petition. The court ruled that the applicable standard was Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987), which held that courts should uphold prison regulations that "impinge on inmates' constitutional rights" as long as those regulations are "reasonably related to legitimate penological interests." Applying the four-factor Turner test, the court found that there was a "valid, rational connection" between the new policies and the "legitimate governmental interest" in prison security put forward to justify them. The court determined that the policies addressed the risks posed to prisoners and guards by hoarded medication and smuggled weapons while leaving detainees with other means to exercise their right to counsel. Finally, the court concluded that the district court had improperly placed the burden of proving that the new policies were reasonable on the military, rather than requiring Appellants to prove that they were not.

For the full text of the opinion, please visit

Panel: Garland, Henderson, Griffith

Argument Date: December 9, 2013

Date of Issued Opinion: August 1, 2014

Docket Number: 13-5218

Decided: Reversed

Case Alert Author: Albertine Guez

Counsel: Edward Himmelfarb, Stuart F. Delery, and Matthew M. Collette for appellants. S. William Livingston, Brian E. Foster, David H. Remes, Brent Nelson Rushforth, and David Muraskin for appellees.

Author of Opinion: Griffith

Case Alert Circuit Supervisors: Elizabeth Earle Beske, Ripple Weistling

    Posted By: Ripple Weistling @ 08/01/2014 02:07 PM     DC Circuit  

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