U.S. Supreme Court

High Court Rules Pakistani Held After 9-11 Can’t Sue Ex-AG on ‘Conclusory’ Claims


A cable TV installer who says his detention after the Sept. 11 attacks was motivated by racial, religious and national origin bias has failed to allege specific facts allowing him to sue the former attorney general and the ex-director of the FBI, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.

The court ruled 5-4 against Pakistani citizen Javaid Iqbal, SCOTUSblog reports. Iqbal’s pleadings were insufficient to allow his suit against former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former FBI director Robert Mueller, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion (PDF).

Iqbal had claimed he was beaten by prison guards when he was held in New York after the attacks, Reuters reports. He had been designated a “high interest” detainee after his arrest for fraudulent identification documents and held in a maximum security wing, according to the opinion. He alleged he was held under policies focused on Arab Muslim men and requiring harsh treatment.

Kennedy wrote that Iqbal’s account of his prison ordeal, if proved true, could demonstrate unconstitutional conduct by some government actors. But naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement are not sufficient to allow the suit against Ashcroft and Mueller, he wrote. Something more is required, Kennedy said, than “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.”

“To be clear, we do not reject these bald allegations on the ground that they are unrealistic or nonsensical,” Kennedy wrote. “It is the conclusory nature of respondent’s allegations, rather than their extravagantly fanciful nature, that disentitles them to the presumption of truth.”

The decision allows the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in New York to decide whether Iqbal may amend his suit to bolster it with additional facts, SCOTUSblog says.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal: “Justices Mull Breyer’s Mouse-in-a-Bottle Hypo in 9-11 Suit Against AG”

ABA Journal: “Supreme Court Agrees to Decide Immunity of Former Attorney General”

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