The Confirmation of Willliam Haynes II

Media 04.28.04

Recipient: U.S. Senate

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, we urge you to reject the confirmation of Department of Defense General Counsel William Haynes, II, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. We believe that Haynes’ record as the chief architect and defender of the administration’s policies regarding the treatment of “enemy combatants” in the United States is so extremist that it raises serious doubts about his commitment to even the most rudimentary principles of due process and human rights.

In his current capacity at the Department of Defense, Haynes formulated – and has been the staunchest defender of – the administration’s “enemy combatant” policy. This policy asserts that the U.S. government has the inherent authority to imprison United States citizens and other individuals indefinitely as “enemy combatants,” without access to counsel, trial or judicial review. Under this policy, the government has even claimed – before the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, on which Haynes now seeks to sit – that the courts have virtually no judicial review power over the government’s decision to label a citizen as an enemy combatant and that judicial review is permissible only to “confirm” that there is some basis for the administration’s designation. That position was moderated, only slightly, in the appeal currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Haynes himself has even gone so far as to publicly dismiss constitutional concerns that have been raised over the policy as mere “rhetoric.”

LCCR is extremely concerned about preserving individuals’ access to the judiciary. While we hold dear all laws that protect civil rights, the right for an individual to access the courts perhaps stands out above all else. Without a strong, effective, accountable way for people to enforce their rights, all of those rights themselves stand in danger of being eviscerated – being reduced to nothing more than general principles that sound compelling on paper but lack the necessary mechanisms to be truly meaningful. As such, we must oppose in the strongest terms the confirmation of anyone to the bench who subscribes to the radical notion that some individuals are simply not entitled to come before him in search of relief.

The Fourth Circuit is often viewed as the most conservative federal appeals court in the country, and has a long history of making decisions that show insufficient concern for important civil rights principles. Given his record, we believe the confirmation of Haynes would move the court in a far more radical – and even dangerous – direction. We therefore urge senators to reject his nomination. If you have any questions or need further information, please feel free to contact Rob Randhava, LCCR policy analyst, at (202) 466-6058 or Nancy Zirkin, LCCR deputy director/director of public policy, at (202) 263-2880.


Wade Henderson
Executive Director

Nancy Zirkin
Deputy Director/Director of Public Policy