Supreme Court to hear Ashcroft v. al-Kidd

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court on Monday granted certorari in Ashcroft v. al-Kidd to determine whether former US attorney general John Ashcroft  is entitled to absolute or qualified immunity against claims that he used the material witness statute as a “pretext” to preventatively detain terrorism suspects. Ashcroft appealed the September 2009 ruling  of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which upheld a lower court decision rejecting his immunity claims in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)on behalf of Abdullah al-Kidd. Al-Kidd was detained for 15 days in March 2003 pursuant to a material witness order, as the government lacked probable cause to hold him as a terrorism suspect.

Deputy Director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project and lead attorney for al-Kidd Lee Gelernt said:

Arresting and detaining someone for an extended period without probable cause to believe he violated the law goes against the most basic principles on which our country is founded. The appeals court made it very clear that former Attorney General Ashcroft could be held personally responsible if he used the material witness law to circumvent the Constitution’s longstanding rule that a suspect may not be arrested without probable cause of wrongdoing. The appeals court opinion was the right one, and the Supreme Court should uphold that decision. Government architects of policies that so clearly defy the Constitution must be held accountable to the law.

The Supreme Court will limit its review to the two issues involving Ashcroft’s entitlement to immunity and will not review a third issue as to whether Ashcroft could be held liable for alleged false statements made in an affidavit supporting the material witness warrant, as that issue has since been dropped by the ACLU.

More here, here and here.

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