Judge Dismisses HLS Alum’s Suit Against Bush

BOSTON—The Massachusetts Federal District courtroom was packed with a bizarre assortment of aging pacifists, scruffy college protesters and sharply-dressed lawyers yesterday.

All were eager to hear John C. Bonifaz, a 1992 graduate of Harvard Law School (HLS), present his request for an injunction against military action in Iraq until Congress issues a formal declaration of war.

The suit, following similar failed actions against the Vietnam and Gulf wars, was dismissed by Judge Joseph Tauro on the grounds that it dealt with a political issue that was outside the jurisdiction of the judicial branch.  

Bonifaz said he planned to file an appeal yesterday afternoon.

Six members of the U.S. House of Representatives, several parents of soldiers and three military personnel who wished to be known only as “John Does” signed on as plaintiffs to the suit. Bonifaz argued that the soldiers faced imminent and irreparable damages if the injunction wasn’t granted.

Although Congress passed a bill entitled “Resolution Authorizing the Use of Force in Iraq” in October, Bonifaz argued that it could not constitutionally cede the decision to wage war to the President. He called the legislative history of the resolution “murky,” and questioned the language of the legislation itself. He claimed that even if the constitutional basis for the suit were dismissed the language of Congress’ resolution would not permit the President to move unilaterally.  

The resolution states that “The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.”

Joseph Hunt, an attorney for the Department of Justice, argued yesterday that the court could not intervene in the matter because there is no demonstrable conflict between Congress and the President. The resolution quite clearly authorizes action on the part of the President, he said, mentioning that it would be premature to issue an injunction on military action that may or may not be imminent.

After Tauro read his preliminary order to the Court, about 50 protesters gathered outside the building for a quick rally followed by a march through downtown Boston.

Thew crowd shouted “No war without a declaration! Keep America a democratic nation,” while waving homemade signs.

A few protestors even dressed in costume, with one sporting a Betsy Ross outfit complete with a thirteen-star flag.

Charles G. Taylor ’69 was part of the protest to support Bonifaz.

“It’s just the smallest action, collectively, that will make all the difference in the world,” Taylor said. “It’s the only way.”

Organizer Caroline Arde, who led the march on crutches, said she came out to focus public attention on her cause.

“We’re a group of concerned citizens who have written letters to Congress, taken every form of indirect action,” she said. “We think it’s time for some direct action.”

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