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Federal Appeals Court Permits Detainee Claims Against Former U.S. Officials to Proceed

June 18, 2015

NEW YORK, June 18, 2015 - A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that former top U.S. officials can potentially be held liable for the abuse of detainees held at a center in New York City following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011. The plaintiffs in the case, Turkmen v. Ashcroft, are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Covington & Burling, and Michael Winger.
In a 109-page opinion, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit permitted claims to proceed against former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former FBI director Robert Mueller, and former INS Commissioner James Ziglar for their roles in the post-September 11 immigration detentions, abuse, and religious profiling of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men.

The court said the Constitution defines the limits of the defendants’ authority.
“If there is one guiding principle to our nation it is the rule of law. It protects the unpopular view, it restrains fearā€based responses in times of trouble, and it sanctifies individual liberty regardless of wealth, faith, or color. The Constitution defines the limits of the Defendants’ authority; detaining individuals as if they were terrorists, in the most restrictive conditions of confinement available, simply because these individuals were, or appeared to be, Arab or Muslim exceeds those limits,” Judges Rosemary S. Pooler and  Richard C. Wesley wrote in the majority opinion.

“It might well be that national security concerns motivated the defendants to take action, but that is of little solace to those who felt the brunt of that decision. The suffering endured by those who were imprisoned merely because they were caught up in the hysteria of the days immediately following 9/11 is not without a remedy,” they wrote.

The New York-based Covington team includes Nancy Kestenbaum, C. William Phillips, Jennifer Robbins and Joanne Sum-Ping.


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