Milligan, Ex Parte

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Milligan, Ex Parte

An 1866 Supreme Court decision, Milligan ex parte, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 2, 18 L.Ed. 281, recognized that a civilian and citizen of a state that is not invaded by hostile forces during wartime is not subject to the jurisdiction of a Court-Martial.

In 1864, Lambdin P. Milligan, a civilian, was arrested in Indiana for conspiracy, insurrection, and other crimes arising from his alleged involvement in organizing a secret military unit in the state to assist the Confederacy. His arrest and detention were made pursuant to the orders of General Alvin P. Hovey, commander of the military district of Indiana. He was brought to trial before a military commission in Indianapolis, convicted, and sentenced to death. Milligan applied for a writ of Habeas Corpus to the Supreme Court, challenging the jurisdiction of the military commission to try and sentence him.

The Court acknowledged that Article III, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution—which provides "that the trial of all crimes, except in cases of Impeachment, shall be by jury"—and other constitutional provisions safeguarded this right. It recognized, however, that in times of war, various civil liberties and the right to challenge illegal detention by a writ of habeas corpus may be suspended. Martial Law might be imposed, however, only where an actual invasion of enemy forces effectively stopped the operation of the civil government.

The military argued that the designation of Indiana as a military district with a commander because of the constant threat of invasion by Confederate troops justified the imposition of martial law. The military commission, therefore, had lawful jurisdiction under the "laws and usages of war." The Court rejected this argument. The state of Indiana had not opposed federal authority, its civil and criminal courts continued to operate during the war, and Milligan was a civilian who was not connected to the military. Although civil liberties and habeas corpus could be suspended in wartime, to permit the military commission to determine the fate of Milligan, a civilian, in a state which was loyal to the Union, and where there was only a mere threat of invasion and the courts were open, would usurp the powers of the courts in violation of the Constitution. The Court decided that the military commission had no jurisdiction over Milligan and therefore ordered Milligan's release.

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Despite the Supreme Court's strongly worded denunciation of military commissions, the scope of the Court's ruling in Ex parte Milligan was surprisingly limited.
90) The Lincoln Administration's approach to internal security, however, was cast in considerable doubt by the Supreme Court's decision in Ex parte Milligan.
One striking aspect of their proposal was the utter disregard of Ex Parte Milligan.
Outcome of Case: A year after the Civil War ended, the Supreme Court decided in Ex Parte Milligan (1866) that Milligan should not have been tried by a military tribunal because the civilian courts in Indiana were open and Indiana was not a war zone.
In Ex Parte Milligan, the Supreme Court held that a United States citizen could not be detained or imprisoned by the military absent a declaration of martial law.
Fletcher invokes the 1866 decision in Ex parte Milligan as "the leading precedent.
Military tribunals have always been limited to the trial of belligerents--those fighting for the enemy, as the Supreme Court ruled in Ex Parte Milligan during the Civil War.
Neither Ex parte Milligan (1866) nor Ex parte McCardle (1867)--the best known judicial responses to domestic martial law under President Lincoln--proved to be fruitful,(13) but Ex parte Yerger (1868) seemed more promising.
The Court determined that the military commission had been properly constituted; that though the saboteurs were captured and tried in a district where courts were open (see Ex parte Milligan, above), they were nonetheless subject to military jurisdiction as "unlawful belligerents" under the laws of war.
The government then appealed the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where Padilla's attorneys argued that the case bears closer resemblance to the Civil War case Ex parte Milligan (248) than to either the Quirin or Territo cases.
38) In McGinty's view, Ex parte Milligan "stands for the proposition that partisan loyalties will not trump important constitutional principles.