The Supreme Court said Monday it will decide whether former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller must face a lawsuit that claims prisoners detained after Sept. 11 were abused because of their religion and ethnicity.
The case, to be argued around the end of the year, will help determine when Cabinet officers and other high-ranking officials can be sued when lower-level government workers violate people's civil rights.
The lawsuit was filed by Javaid Iqbal, a Pakistani Muslim who spent nearly six months in solitary confinement in New York in 2002. Iqbal, since deported from the United States, says Ashcroft, Mueller and others implemented a policy of confining detainees in highly restrictive conditions because of their religious beliefs and race.
A federal appeals court said the lawsuit could proceed, but the Bush administration said the high-ranking officials should not have to answer for the allegedly discriminatory acts of subordinates, absent a glimmer of evidence that they intended or condoned the harsh treatment.
The New York-based 2d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that Ashcroft, Mueller and 32 other former and current government employees named in the lawsuit may eventually be dismissed as defendants if evidence shows they were not sufficiently involved in the activities to support a finding of personal liability.
The Supreme Court will decide whether the lawsuit can even get that far. [Link]
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