Justices Block Damages Against Officials in Roundup

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The Supreme Court blocked a lawsuit against former George W. Bush administration U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and former FBI director Robert Mueller over claims they crafted and executed unlawful detention policies after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, the National Law Journal reports. Eight undocumented men, part of a group of 700 immigrants who were arrested and detained under a “hold-until-cleared” policy, alleged they were rounded up and imprisoned—based only on their race or religion—for months. One of the men, Ahmer Abbasi, said he spent nearly 11 months in jail before being deported to Pakistan. The Supreme Court’s 4-2 decision yesterday overturned a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. (The late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat was vacant, and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan sat out the case.)

In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that Congress had not provided a damages remedy for the circumstances the lawsuit raised. “The silence of Congress is relevant; and here that silence is telling,” Kennedy wrote. Justice Stephen Breyer read a lengthy summary of his and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent—an indication of how strongly the two felt about the majority decision. He said they “most strongly disagreed” with the majority’s view “that the post 9/11 circumstance—the national security emergency—does, or might well constitute, a ‘special factor’ precluding a damages remedy.”

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