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Law School Case Brief

Rasul v. Bush - 215 F. Supp. 2d 55 (D.D.C. 2002)


Motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action are proper under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). In the Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) context, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving jurisdiction. In both matters, the government challenges the actual complaint (and/or petition) itself, without relying on matters outside the pleadings. A facial attack questions the sufficiency of the pleading. Where the motion to dismiss presents "facial challenges," the court must accept all of the amended petition's/amended complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those allegations in petitioners'/plaintiffs' favor. 


Petitioners Shafiq Rasul, Al Odah and several others were citizens of numerous countries other than the United States. Petitioners were taken prisoner during the federal government's military action in Afghanistan and transported to and detained at the U.S.'s military base in Cuba. In separate actions filed in federal district court, Rasul and others sought to be released from "unlawful" custody, to be permitted to meet and confer with counsel in private, and to stop all interrogations while litigation was pending. Odah an others sought sought preliminary and permanent injunctions prohibiting the government from refusing to allow petitioners and other detainees to meet with their families. They also sought: (1) to compel the government to inform them of the charges, if any, against them; (2) to have the right to designate and consult with counsel of their choice, and; (3) to have access to the courts or some other impartial tribunal. The district court's jurisdiction was invoked under the federal-question statute (28 U.S.C.S. § 1331), the Alien Tort Statute (28 U.S.C.S. § 1350), and a federal habeas corpus provision (28 U.S.C.S. § 2241(c)(3)). The government filed motions to dismiss the actions for lack of jurisdiction.


Did the court have jurisdiction?




The district court granted the government's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The court held that the sole means for securing petitioners' release was through a writ of habeas corpus. The court held that the military base in Cuba was not part of the United States' sovereign territory, nor was it considered to be within the United States' territorial jurisdiction under a de facto theory of sovereignty, because the United States merely leased the land from Cuba for use as a naval base. Therefore, because the military base was outside the United States' sovereign territory, and under the Eisentrager holding writs of habeas corpus were not available to aliens held outside the United States' sovereign territory, the court did not have jurisdiction over petitioners' claims.

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