Habeas corpus has played an essential part in many of the great controversies that have marked major constitutional tensions throughout U.S. history. Presidential and congressional powers were tested in the Civil War period in Ex parte Merryman and Ex parte McCardle. In 1908, federal judicial power to prevent unconstitutional action by state officers-of great significance to this day in assuring the supremacy of federal law over state action-emerged in what was technically a habeas corpus action in Ex parte Young. Executive branch detentions in World War II were tested not only through
direct appeals, but also-and more successfully-through habeas corpus in Ex parte Endo and Duncan v. Kahanamoku. More recently, habeas has been once again invoked to resolve difficult questions of constitutional law, personal liberty, and executive and legislative powers. In the last few years, habeas corpus has assumed importance as a vehicle for litigating both U.S. constitutional claims and the application of international legal standards to foreign nationals held by or in the United States. In this same time period, U.S. engagement with what the Court has called “the world community” over legal issues has emerged as a marked point of tension.
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