Nearly 200 lawsuits by Guantanamo Bay detainees have been on hold for months as federal judges waited for word on whether they had the authority to move forward.
The lawsuits claim that the Bush administration is holding the detainees illegally. The right to file such lawsuits has been around since the Magna Carta and was written into the Constitution, but the Bush administration argued that Guantanamo Bay detainees aren't covered by it.
Congress passed a law in 2006 stripping courts of the jurisdiction to hear such challenges. Since then, judges have put their cases on hold waiting for Thursday's ruling.
The decision sent judges, law clerks and court administrators rushing to read the 70-page opinion and figure out how to proceed.
The federal judges will have to review the evidence and determine whether each detainee is being held lawfully. Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth said he would call a special meeting of federal judges in Washington to figure out how to handle what could be a sudden, dramatic increase in sensitive, high-stakes casework.