The Supreme Court has stopped a suit by a post-9/11 detainee against former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller, overturning the Second Circuit decision that had allowed the case against the officials to move forward.
The plaintiff in the case, Javaid Iqbal, was one of the thousands of Muslims who were detained as part of the dragnet that targeted people with potential connections to the September 11th hijackings. He alleges that officers at a Brooklyn detention center subjected him to "harsh conditions of confinement" based on his race, ethnicity and nationality, and he accuses Ashcroft and Mueller of planning and executing the policy that gave rise to his unconstitutional confinement. The two officials moved to have the case dismissed on grounds of
qualified immunity, but the lower courts found that the plaintiff had
adequately alleged that the two officials were personally involved in
the violations of his constitution rights.
The Supreme Court
disagreed with the lower courts and held that Iqbal had not presented
sufficient facts to support his claim that Ashcroft and Mueller
purposefully and unlawfully discriminated against him.
to the opinion filed by Justice Kennedy, Iqbal only offered conclusory
statements that could not support his claims. Without more, Kennedy
wrote, Iqbal could not make the necessary shift from a conceivable
claim to a plausible one.
The Court didn't close the door on the
suit entirely, however. Kennedy explicitly stated that nothing in the
current opinion would affect Iqbal's suit against other officials
involved in his detention, so he is still free to pursue his claims
against the other defendants.
Kennedy also left it up to the
Second Circuit to determine whether Iqbal could amend his complaint to
add information that could render the pleadings sufficient and keep the
See Also: Court: Officials Can't Be Sued For Post-9/11 Abuse (Huffington Post) Justices Turn Back Ex-Detainee's Suit Over Prison Abuses (NY Times)