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University of Iowa College of Law




"Democracy," said Churchill, "means that if the door bell rings in the early hours, it is likely to be the milkman." He might have added that if the caller is not the milkman, but a police officer, Anglo-American democracy contemplates that the writ of habeas corpus will be available to the citizen awakened and dragged off into the darkness. The Great Writ has no substantive content of its own but provides the machinery for putting claims before state and federal courts-for translating substantive principles of liberty into effective law. The writ is process, but more than process. It is the means by which liberty is maintained in the most basic sense. "Its root principle," in the words of the Supreme Court, "is that in a civilized society, government must always be accountable to the judiciary for a man's imprisonment. "

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