This week’s court decision challenging federal surveillance powers could test the revamped U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where a bench with new Obama appointees will hear appeals, the Wall Street Journal reports. During the George W. Bush administration, the D.C. Circuit approved national-security measures questioned by other courts, legal scholars and bar organizations. D.C. Circuit judges ruled that Guantanamo Bay detainees had no right to challenge their imprisonment, and that the U.S. could disregard the Geneva Conventions when prosecuting prisoners designated as unlawful enemy combatants before military commissions.
The Supreme Court reversed those rulings between 2004 and 2008, rejecting the expansive view of executive power the D.C. Circuit had embraced. When majority Democrats amended Senate rules to end filibusters for court nominations, the Senate quickly confirmed two Obama nominees, Washington lawyer Patricia Millett and Georgetown law professor Cornelia Pillard. They join another Obama appointee, former Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan, confirmed earlier this year. A fourth Obama nominee, Judge Robert Wilkins of the federal district court in Washington, is expected to be confirmed shortly. The court’s active judges likely will include seven appointees of Democratic presidents and four Republican appointees.