Constitution Day Panelists Defend Judicial Jurisdiction

Issue Date: 
October 2, 2006

During the University’s observation of Constitution Day Sept. 18, Pitt law professor Jules Lobel (above, left) and former federal judges Robert J. Cindrich (to Lobel’s left) and Timothy K. Lewis (not pictured) defended judicial independence and criticized a recent movement in the U.S. Congress to usurp jurisdiction over foreigners held in American custody outside the United States.

“Congress seemed poised to eliminate [the U.S. Supreme Court’s] habeas corpus jurisdiction for U.S. detainees held overseas, which would be inconsistent with Constitutional traditions and values,” Lobel noted.

Habeas corpus reform “is not consistent with judicial culture. If they can do it with these cases [of aliens held in U.S. custody], they will do it with others,” said Lewis, an attorney with Schnader, Harrison, Segal, and Lewis in
Washington, D.C.

Narrowing judicial jurisdiction endangers civil liberties, argued Cindrich, chief legal officer and general counsel for UPMC.

The discussion followed a screening of a documentary titled “A Conversation on the Constitution,” featuring U.S. Supreme Court justices Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy and former justice Sandra Day O’Connor.