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Qassim v. Trump

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

January 15, 2019, Argued; June 21, 2019, Decided

No. 18-5148


 [*524]  Millett, Circuit Judge: Khalid Ahmed Qassim, who has been held at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba for seventeen years, appeals the district court's denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. On appeal, Qassim presses a due process challenge to the government's use of undisclosed classified information as a basis for his detention. In denying Qassim's motion in limine concerning the use of undisclosed information, the district court ruled that, as an alien Guantanamo detainee, Qassim has no rights under the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause. In so ruling, the district court relied on [**2]  this court's 2009 decision in Kiyemba v. Obama, 555 F.3d 1022, 384 U.S. App. D.C. 375 (D.C. Cir. 2009), vacated, 559 U.S. 131, 130 S. Ct. 1235, 175 L. Ed. 2d 1070, and judgment reinstated as amended, 605 F.3d 1046, 390 U.S. App. D.C. 429 (D.C. Cir. 2010).

The district court's ruling that binding circuit precedent denies Qassim all rights to due process was in error. Kiyemba did not so hold. That decision ruled only that the Due Process Clause does not invest detainees who have already been granted habeas corpus with a substantive due process right to be released into the United States. That decision did not decide, or have any occasion to address, what constitutional procedural protections apply to the litigation of a detainee's habeas corpus petition in the first instance. Nor has any other decision of this circuit adopted a categorical prohibition on affording detainees seeking habeas relief any constitutional procedural protections. The governing law, in fact, is that Qassim and other ] alien detainees must be afforded a habeas process that ensures "meaningful review" of their detention. Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723, 783, 128 S. Ct. 2229, 171 L. Ed. 2d 41 (2008).

Beyond that, resolution of Qassim's specific due process challenge to the government's  [*525]  withholding of classified information would be premature precisely because the parties and the district court operated under a faulty understanding of circuit precedent. We instead are constrained to [**3]  remand the case for further proceedings to be conducted within the correct legal framework and to develop the needed factual record. Pullman-Standard v. Swint, 456 U.S. 273, 291, 102 S. Ct. 1781, 72 L. Ed. 2d 66 (1982) (] "When an appellate court discerns that a district court has failed to make a finding because of an erroneous view of the law, the usual rule is that there should be a remand for further proceedings to permit the trial court to make the missing findings."). As it now stands, the record is insufficient for this court to resolve Qassim's constitutional challenge. Cf. Reno v. Catholic Soc. Servs., Inc., 509 U.S. 43, 66, 113 S. Ct. 2485, 125 L. Ed. 2d 38 (1993). We leave it for the district court to address on remand both Qassim's claimed constitutional right to access the classified information in the government's hands and the constitutional source (if any) of such a right. In so doing, the district court can also address the government's belated concession, made for the first time on appeal, that some of the sought-after information may properly be disclosed in this case.

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927 F.3d 522 *; 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 18608 **


Subsequent History: Rehearing denied by, En banc Qassim v. Trump, 938 F.3d 375, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 27945 (D.C. Cir., Sept. 17, 2019)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (No. 1:04-cv-01194).

Qassim v. Trump, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 142405 (D.D.C., May 8, 2018)


district court, detainees, constitutional question, habeas petition, alien, procedural protections, case management, due process, parties, classified information, detention, quotation, cases, marks, habeas corpus, detain, premature, rights, factual record, federal court, disclosure, litigating, discovery, courts

Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Scope of Protection, Criminal Law & Procedure, Cognizable Issues, Threshold Requirements, Due Process, Appeals, Remand & Remittitur, Habeas Corpus, Jurisdiction, The Judiciary, Case or Controversy, Advisory Opinions, Constitutional Questions, Constitutional Questions, Necessity of Determination, Procedure, Discovery, Standards of Review, Harmless & Invited Error, Harmless Error