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SCOTUS Says Post-9/11 Detainee Didn't Plead Hard Enough

By Kevin Fayle on May 18, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019
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.

According 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 case alive.

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)

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