Conyers v. Reagan – International Law – CCR Docket 1985-1986

In October 1983, President Reagan announced that he had ordered a pre-dawn invasion of Grenada by nearly 1,900 Marines and armed airborne troops under the code name “Urgent Fury.” The fighting was heavier than expected and by the end of the month the United States military presence in that Caribbean island had reached more than 5,600 troops. After a few days of heavy fighting and a number of deaths, the shooting ended. There are still U.S. forces occupying the country.

The invasion and occupation constituted, within the mean­ing of the War Powers Clause of the U.S. Constitution, a war against the people of Grenada. The President, however, at no time sought the required congressional approval. He justified the invasion by claiming falsely that the lives of U.S. medical students were in danger. The same pretext was given to jus­tify the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965.

Within a few weeks of the invasion, the CCR, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the Nation al Lawyers Guild, and the American Civil Liberties Union 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 a judgment that the inva­sion had taken place in violation of the U.S. Constitution and that all U.S. forces should therefore leave Grenada. The government moved to dismiss the case, arguing that members of Congress are not permitted to bring such suits as they have adequate remedies within Congress. The government also argued that the case was moot because there were only 300 U.S. troops remaining in Grenada.

The court granted the government’s motion to dismiss on the ground that the congressional plaintiffs had other reme­dies. The plaintiffs appealed and the federal appeals court ruled that the case was moot since most U.S. troops had been withdrawn from Grenada.

Michael Ratner, Frank E. Deale with CCR cooperating attorney Margaret Burnham, and Deborah Jackson, National Conference of Black Lawyers, Mark Rosenbaum, American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California