U.S. Supreme Court Sidesteps War Powers Case

WASHINGTON (AP)-- A divided Supreme Court today is sidestepping a challenge to Bush administration wartime detention powers by rejecting an appeal from a man held until recently as an enemy combatant without traditional legal rights.

Jose Padilla was moved in January to Miami to face criminal charges, and the government argued that the appeal over his indefinite detention was now pointless.

Three justices said the court should have agreed to take up the case anyway: Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

An appeals court panel had all but called for the court to deal with the case, saying it was troubled by the Bush administration's change in legal strategy — after holding Padilla more than three years without charges.

Justices first considered in 2004 whether Padilla's constitutional rights were violated when he was detained as an “enemy combatant” without charges and access to a lawyer. Justices dodged a decision on technical grounds. In a dissent Justice John Paul Stevens said then that "at stake in this case is nothing less than the essence of a free society."