Where is the Power to Suspend Habeas Corpus?

The Constitution’s Suspension Clause (Art. I, Section 9, cl. 2) limits when the writ of habeas corpus can be suspended. But the Constitution doesn’t seem to grant the federal government power to suspend the writ in the first place. Why not? And why limit a power never given?

In an Aug. 17 Wall Street Journal piece, constitutional law professor Nicholas Quinn Rosenkrantz infers that Congress has the sole suspension authority from the structure of the constitutional text. He writes:

“Since the Suspension Clause appears in Article I of the Constitution, which is predominately about the powers of Congress, there is a strong argument that only Congress can suspend the habeas writ.”

He concludes that when President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ, he probably intruded on Congress’s prerogative, and thereby exceeded his constitutional authority. (Professor Rosenkrantz also gives Lincoln credit for trying to cure the constitutional defect.)

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