National Security Clinic wins D.C. Circuit appeal, Guantánamo detainee’s habeas case goes forward

On June 18, 2010, the National Security Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law won an appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which allows a Clinic client’s habeas case to go forward in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He can now challenge his detention at the Guantánamo Bay facility.

In the spring of 2009, students in the National Security Clinic began representing a man known only as Obaydullah, an Afghan citizen detained at Guantánamo for over eight years. Obaydullah’s habeas case had been stayed in the D.C. District Court due to his pending military commission charges. When the Obama administration halted the military commissions, the Clinic challenged the stay but lost in the lower court. Undeterred, the Clinic appealed the stay to the D.C. Circuit, arguing that under the Supreme Court’s decision in Boumediene v. Bush and because the military commissions were stalled, Obaydullah was entitled to proceed with his habeas case in order to challenge his detention.

Over the course of a year, Clinic students and faculty filed numerous briefs in and prepared for oral argument before the D.C. Circuit. Several Clinic students traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend and assist in preparing for the oral argument, which was made by Professor Ranjana Natarajan, director of the National Security Clinic. Attorneys from local law firms—Haynes and Boone and Akin Gump—lent a hand in the briefing and UT Law Professor Derek Jinks also assisted in helping prepare Natarajan for the argument.

“Working on the brief from conception to filing, learning of our appellate victory, and knowing that we had achieved the best result we could for our client, was by far the most rewarding experience of my law school career,” said Leigh Orliner, a clinic student in 2009.

The D.C. Circuit Court agreed with the Clinic that Supreme Court precedent requires the lower court to move the case forward without further delays. As a result of the Clinic’s victory, Obaydullah can now go forward with his habeas case, in which the federal government must prove that his detention is valid. Along with its co-counsel—the law firm of Hadsell Stormer Keeny Richardson & Renick LLP, which also worked on the appeal—the National Security Clinic will continue to represent its client in his habeas proceeding before the D.C. District Court.


Kristine A. Huskey, National Security Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, 703-568-7545 or