1973 July 25

Federal Judge Orders Halt to U.S. Military Actions in Cambodia


In an extraordinary decision on this day, U.S. District Court Judge Orrin Judd ordered a halt to U.S. military operations in Cambodia. The judge wrote that “there is no existing Congressional authority to order military forces into combat in Cambodia or to release bombs over Cambodia, and that military activities in Cambodia by American armed forces are unauthorized and unlawful. . . .” In June 1973, Congress had voted to stop all funding for military operations in Cambodia. Judge Judd’s decision was overturned a few days later by the Supreme Court, on August 4, 1973, in Holtzman v. Schlesinger. The lead plaintiff was U.S. Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman from Brooklyn. The case was argued by Burt Neuborne for the ACLU and Norman Siegel for the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The case followed several other unsuccessful challenges to the constitutionality of the Vietnam War, including Berk v. Laird (June 19, 1970) and a Massachusetts law that declared the war unconstitutional because of the lack of a Congressional Declaration of War (April 2, 1970).

Read Holtzman’s story: Elizabeth Holtzman, Who Said it Would be Easy? One Woman’s Life in the Political Arena (1996)

Learn more: Peter Irons, War Powers: How the Imperial Presidency Highjacked the Constitution  (2005)

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