U.S. Supreme Court

Justices Give Solicitor General Some Leeway in Detained Citizen’s Suit Against John Ashcroft

  • Print

Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal’s defense of former Attorney General John Ashcroft went so smoothly before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday that he ended his main oral argument 10 minutes early.

The New York Times sees the lack of interruptions as an indication that Katyal will succeed in his argument that Ashcroft should be immune from a suit filed a U.S. citizen detained after the Sept. 11 attacks. Abdullah al-Kidd claims he was improperly held under the material witness law because of policies set by Ashcroft. He is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The few questions that Katyal fielded focused in large part on which theory should be used to shield Ashcroft from suit, the Times says. The choices: Ashcroft is immune because his actions were at the core of a prosecutor’s duties, or because he did not violate a clearly established constitutional right.

Katyal argued that allowing the suit would cause prosecutors to “flinch in the performance of their duties.”

Kidd, a former college football player, contends he was detained as part of a government plan to sweep up Muslim men after the terrorist attacks, the Washington Post reports. He says he was shackled, forced to sit naked in his cell, and kept awake for 24 hours at a time. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled Kidd’s lawsuit could proceed.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.