D.C. Circuit Drone Strike Case Implicates Separation of PowersJuly 7, 2017
In Ali Jaber v. United States, No. 16-5093 (D.C. Cir. June 30, 2017), D.C. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown authored a unanimous panel opinion faithfully applying circuit precedent and the political question doctrine to bar a declaratory judgment suit challenging the wisdom of a U.S. drone strike in Yemen that allegedly resulted in human “collateral damage.” But Judge Brown also took the unusual step of filing a separate concurring opinion asserting that the political question doctrine — which bars courts from second-guessing the wisdom of military decisions — not only “may be deeply flawed,” but also “rendered … largely obsolete” by technological advances such as use of unmanned weaponized drones. Recognizing that “the political question doctrine insures that effective supervision of this wondrous new warfare will not be provided by the U.S. courts,” Judge Brown, a judicial conservative who was nominated by President George W. Bush, asks “if judges will not check this outsized power, then who will?”
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