Nonetheless, the outcome was not the unalloyed victory for the Bush administration that it might have appeared to be.
Three justices who voted not to hear the case — Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and John Paul Stevens, along with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. — filed an unusual opinion explaining their position. They noted that Mr. Padilla, who is now out of military custody and awaiting trial in federal district court in Miami on terrorism-related charges, was entitled to a criminal defendant's full range of protections, including the right to a speedy trial.
Most significant, the three justices warned the administration that the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, stood ready to intervene "were the government to seek to change the status or conditions of Padilla's custody."
The case was not delcared moot, but the transfer of Padilla from military to civilian custody rendered his appeal irrelevant.
And silence from the Supreme Court's right-wing hit squad:
Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., who voted against hearing the appeal, neither signed Justice Kennedy's opinion nor offered an explanation of their own. It is possible that they objected to the language in the Kennedy opinion about the court's readiness to intervene "promptly to ensure that the office and purposes of the writ of habeas corpus are not compromised" if the administration were to change Mr. Padilla's status once again.
The silence of these three justices was only one of several mysteries surrounding the court's disposition of the case, among the most prominent of the cases generated by the administration's handling of those it has labeled enemy combatants.