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Supreme Court Turns Back Detainee Lawsuit Against Mueller, Ashcroft

In a 5-4 ruling, Supreme Court said Monday that FBI Director Robert Mueller and former Attorney General John Ashcroft can't face a lawsuit launched by a former terrorism detainee. Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal recaps the ruling and other court moves.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Today's busy day at the court included decisions in two significant cases. Here, as always, to help us, Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal.

    Welcome back.

  • MARCIA COYLE, National Law Journal:

    Thanks, Jeff.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Now, the first case involved a detainee, Javaid Iqbal, a Pakistani Muslim living in the U.S. who wanted to sue top officials for treatment he received. Tell us more. What was the argument?

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    Well, Mr. Iqbal was picked up in 2001 on charges unrelated to terrorism, but shortly afterwards he was transferred to a maximum-security facility that held those who were suspected of being involved in the 9/11 attacks.

    He ultimately was convicted of the non-terrorism charges, served his time, and was deported to Pakistan. But he did sue then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller claiming that they had adopted and enforced an unconstitutional policy that resulted in his confinement and, later, subsequent physical abuse.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Tied to the — I mean, based on his religion, right?

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    Right, simply because of either his race, religion, or national origin.

    But the case before the court that was decided today was not about whether those two officials did violate his constitutional rights. It was whether Mr. Iqbal had pleaded in his complaint enough facts to get over the first major hurdle in a lawsuit that lets you get to your day in court, and that was whether he could survive a motion by the government to dismiss the case.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    All right. So the issue was whether he could bring this suit against these…

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    Exactly.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    A lower court sided with him.

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    Yes.

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