Conyers v. Reagan – International – CCR Docket 1984-1985

On October 25,1983, President Reagan announced that, under the code name Urgent Fury, he had ordered a pre-dawn invasion of Grenada by nearly 1,900 Marines and armed airborne troops. Fighting became heavier than expected, and by October 29, the United States military presence in that Caribbean island had reaehed more than 5,600 troops. The force included Army Rangers, members of the 82nd Airborne, and approximately 600 Marines. Eleven Navy ships and six ships in the U.S.S. Independence battle group constituted part of the arsenal committed to Grenada. After approximately six days of heavy fighting and several deaths, the shooting ended. Even today, there remain U.S. forces occupying the country providing security and police services.

Although this invasion and occupation clearly constituted a war against the people of Grenada within the meaning of the War Powers Clause of the Constitution, the President at no time sought congressional approval for these activities as required. The President justified the invasion without approval by claiming that the lives of American citizens were in danger. Such a pretext was used to justify the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965. The claim that the invasion occurred in order to rescue American medical students was belied by the head of the medical school, who declared that these students were not in danger, and by the fact that the U.S. continues to occupy Grenada at a time when there is no danger to any American citizens.

Within a few weeks after the invasion, the National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL), the NLG, the ACLU, and the CCR filed suit on behalf of Congressman John Conyers and 10 other Members of Congress challenging the invasion as a violation of the War Powers Clause. The suit requested declaratory judgment that the invasion had taken place in violation of the Constitution and demanded an injunction requiring all U.S. forces to leave Grenada immediately. The government moved to dismiss the case arguing that Members of Congress should not be permitted to bring such suits as they have adequate remedies within Congress and that the case was moot because there were only 300 U.S. troops remaining in Grenada.

The court dismissed the case on a ground termed “equitable discretion,” agreeing with the government that the congressional plaintiffs had other remedies and had no right to be in court. Plaintiffs have appealed to the court of appeals which will shortly hear argument.

Michael Rainer, Frank E. Deale with CCR cooperating attorney Margaret Burnham, and Deborah Jackson, NCBL, Mark Rosenbaum, ACLU of Southern California