Northern California Record

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Berkeley Law professor publishes book on habeas corpus

By Kyle Perrotti | Sep 28, 2016

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BERKELEY – After a long, arduous journey, Berkeley Law Professor Amanda Tyler is set to release her new book, "Habeas Corpus Goes to War: Tracing the Story of the United States Constitution’s Habeas Privilege from the Tower of London to Guantánamo Bay.”

Although the book will not hit shelves until next year, Tyler is excited to see years of research finally come to fruition.

For Tyler, studying habeas corpus has long been a passion, and she told the Northern California Record that undertaking such a huge project has been tremendously rewarding–something she has longed to do since her days at law school at Harvard.

“I’ve been writing about it [habeas corpus] now for several years,” she said. “A big part of what keeps my interest about this particular area of law is that it touches on a lot of larger concepts having to do with the separation of powers and the emergency constitution. And it also invites a rigorous historical inquiry into the role that habeas corpus has played over time during periods of great constitutional stress.”

The book traces the history of The Writ of Habeas Corpus and its suspension through turmoil and political strife, from England in the 17th century all the way up to the American war on terror. The book covers many important periods in American history, including the American Revolution, from both the English and American angles, the Burr conspiracy, the Civil War, World War II and the current war in the Middle East.

To conduct the research necessary to give the subject its due diligence, Tyler traveled around the country and to England, spending days pouring over primary documents.

Tyler said that she believes the suspension of habeas corpus isn’t always bad. One example she cited was the suspension of habeas invoked by President Ulysses S. Grant in portions of the South during Reconstruction to advance civil rights and combat the Ku Klux Klan.

Tyler also said that she thinks few would disagree that the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War prevented a situation in which there was a very good argument for the need for suspension.

“After all, it was a giant case of rebellion, as President Lincoln called it,” she said. “And the very Union itself was at stake.”

But not all suspensions of rights in American history were warranted.

Tyler's book also explores the internment camps that Japanese Americans were forced into during the unrest of World War II, arguing that the entire episode violated the Suspension Clause. A large part of her discussion of suspension of rights during that war is the story of a young woman, Mitsuye Endo, who Tyler said was the perfect person to challenge the camps and their constitutionality. Endo was chosen by attorney James Purcell, whom Tyler respects for his sacrifices made to fight the internment camps, as the perfect candidate.

“He did so because she had a number of attributes that made her ideal in the sense that she very much looked like a loyal American,” Tyler said. “She worked for the state of California, never been to Japan, didn’t speak Japanese, had a brother serving in Pacific for the Army.”  

Tyler’s book is forthcoming next year from Oxford University Press.

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University of California Berkeley