President Abraham Lincoln decided to suspend the right of habeas corpus during the Civil War. Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the first year of the Civil War, responding to riots and local militia actions in the border states by allowing the indefinite detention of "disloyal persons" without trial. Habeas corpus, which literally means "you have the body," is a U.S. Constitutional mandate requiring the government to give prisoners access to the courts. Lincoln ignored a Supreme Court justice's decision overturning his order, and allowed his suspension to exist for several years. The suspension of habeas corpus was one of President Lincolnโ€™s most controversial decisions.

Then, the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act, 12 Stat. 755 (1863), entitled An Act relating to Habeas Corpus, and regulating Judicial Proceedings in Certain Cases, was an act of Congress that authorized the President of the United States to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in response to the United States Civil War. It began in the House of Representatives as an indemnity bill, introduced on December 5, 1862, releasing the president and his subordinates from any liability for having suspended habeas corpus without congressional approval. Abraham Lincoln signed this bill into law on March 3, 1863; it became inoperative with the end of the Civil War.

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