Constitutional Law

4th Circuit Nixes Damages Suit by 'Enemy Combatant' Jose Padilla Over Alleged US Torture


In a move decried by the American Civil Liberties Union as a sad day for the rule of law, a federal appeals court today upheld a lower court’s ruling that an American citizen who claimed he was illegally detained and tortured at a U.S. military jail in South Carolina cannot turn to the legal system for redress.

Because he was designated an “enemy combatant” by the military, Jose Padilla’s treatment falls outside the scope of government conduct that tort litigation is intended to address, held the Richmond, Va.-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as it affirmed a trial court’s dismissal of the case. Congress, not the judicial branch, is in charge of the military, the court explained, and it has not provided for a civil damages remedy, the Associated Press reports.

“By dismissing this lawsuit, the appeals court handed the government a blank check to commit any abuse in the name of national security, even the brutal torture of a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil. This impunity is not only anathema to a democracy governed by laws, but contrary to history’s lesson that in times of fear our values are a strength, not a hindrance,” said ACLU attorney Ben Wizner in a written statement.

It appears that the 4th Circuit ruling isn’t yet posted on the ACLU’s legal documents page for the case.

A Reuters article provides additional details.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “11th Circuit Nixes 17-Year Term for Terrorism Plotter Jose Padilla, Says It Wasn’t Long Enough”

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