The Original Meaning of the Habeas Corpus Suspension Clause

50 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2018

See all articles by John C. Harrison

John C. Harrison

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: August 7, 2018


The Habeas Corpus Suspension Clause of Article I, Section 9, is primarily a limit on Congress’ authority to authorize detention by the executive. It is not mainly concerned with the remedial writ of habeas corpus, but rather with the primary right of natural liberty. Suspensions of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus are statutes that vest very broad discretion in the executive to decide which individuals to hold in custody. Detention of combatants under the law of war need not rest on a valid suspension, whether the combatant is an alien or a citizen of the United States. The Suspension Clause does not affirmatively require that the federal courts have any jurisdiction to issue the writ of habeas corpus, and so does not interfere with Congress’ general control over the jurisdiction of the federal courts. The clause does not impose any limits on congressional authority with respect to the habeas corpus jurisdiction of state courts that would not exist in its absence.

Keywords: Habeas Corpus, Suspension Clause

Suggested Citation

Harrison, John C., The Original Meaning of the Habeas Corpus Suspension Clause (August 7, 2018). Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2018-47, Available at SSRN:

John C. Harrison (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics