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Tag: supreme court

Ex-Atty. Gen. Ashcroft Dodges Bullet; Supreme Court Tosses Lawsuit Against Him

John Ashcroft/doj photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Ex-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft is off the hook.

In an 8-0 ruling, the Supreme Court tossed out a lawsuit against Ashcroft. It overturned a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, saying the former Attorney General under President Bush  enjoyed “qualified immunity” from a lawsuit filed by Abdullah al Kidd, a former University of Idaho football player who converted to Islam.

The court ruled that Ashcroft did not clearly violate the 4th Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

FBI agents arrested Kidd in 2003 at Dulles Airport and detained him for 16 days in three different states as a material witness supposedly for a pending case. He was never charged and never called as a witness.

Kidd claimed Ashcroft abused his power by detaining him as a material witness. He also alleged the arrest was part of a bigger plan by the Bush administration to round up Muslims, regardless if whether they had ties to terrorism.

But the Supreme Court, in a ruling written by Justice Antonin Scalia, wrote: “The affidavit accompanying the warrant application (as al-Kidd concedes) gave individualized reasons to believe that he was a material witness and that he would soon disappear.”

“Qualified immunity gives government officials breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions. When properly applied, it protects ‘all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law’,” the court wrote.

”We hold that an objectively reasonable arrest and detention of a material witness pursuant to a validly obtained warrant cannot be challenged as unconstitutional on the basis of allegations that the arresting authority had an improper motive. Because Ashcroft did not violate clearly established law, we need not address the more difficult question whether he enjoys absolute immunity.”

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor voted to overturn the lower court ruling, but conceded that the law in this area is not completely clear. Justice Elena Kagan did not participate.

Read Opinion

Fed Judge Bothered that Justice Dept. Didn’t Appeal Death Penalty Ruling in NYPD Cop Killing Case

Judge Nicholas Garaufis/wikipedia

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A Brooklyn fed judge is none too happy with the Justice Department and Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. in a case involving the murder of two New York police detectives,  the NY Daily News reported.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis “bristled” on Tuesday when expressing his displeasure that the Justice Department failed to  appeal to the Supreme Court a ruling by the Court of Appeals that tossed out the death penalty conviction phase for the convicted cop killer because of prosecutorial error, the Daily News reported.

The murder conviction still stands, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office wants to retry the penalty phase to go after the death penalty again for convicted cop killer Ronell Wilson , the Daily News reported. The judge, bothered that the prosecutors simply didn’t appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, said he would not let the retrial for the penalty phase  go forward until he got a letter from Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. pledging the department’s intent to seek the death penalty, the Daily News reported.

The Daily News reported that the demand for the letter was the judge’s way of taking a shot at Holder   “in view of the fact that the attorney general failed to exhaust all appeals and abandoned the appeal of the case.”  The judge expressed concern about the emotional effects a second trial would have on the victims’ families.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has repeatedly said in the past that it is committed to retrying the death penalty phase of the case, the Daily News reported.

The attorney general must sign off when prosecutors seek the death penalty. The case was first prosecuted when  Roberto Gonzales was the attorney general.

Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, declined comment Wednesday morning. The Justice Department in Washington also declined comment.

LA Times Editorial: New Guildelines for Miranda Rights “Defensible”

Suspect Abdulmutallab/u.s. marshals photo

By The Los Angeles Times
Editorial Page

There was an uproar when it was revealed that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called Christmas Day bomber, was read his Miranda rights. The hysterical reaction obscured a real dilemma for law enforcement: how to obtain what could be vital information about terrorist plots without denying suspects their legal rights. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. and the FBI have produced guidelines that adroitly balance the two interests.

Issued Oct. 21 but made public only recently, the guidelines will not please those conservatives who insist that suspected terrorists shouldn’t be Mirandized at all. But they strike us as reasonable and, equally important, useful in heading off efforts in Congress to weaken Miranda.

The guidelines say that if applicable, “agents should ask any and all questions that are reasonably prompted by an immediate concern for the safety of the public or the arresting agents without advising the arrestee of his Miranda rights.” This advice is consistent with a 1984 Supreme Court decision making an exception from the Miranda requirement for questioning motivated by a concern for public safety.

Next, the guidelines say that after public safety concerns have been resolved, agents should promptly Mirandize a suspect. But there are exceptions: situations in which, “although all relevant public safety questions have been asked, agents nonetheless conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat, and that the government’s interest in obtaining this intelligence outweighs the disadvantages of proceeding with unwarned interrogation.” This provision pushes the public safety exception to its limit, but it’s defensible.

To read more click here.

Justice Dept. Mulls Over Asking Supreme Court to Consider Case Involving GPS Device

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The lawyers over at the Justice Department are trying to figure out whether they should ask the Supreme Court to consider a case with far reaching implications involving the use of a GPS to track a criminal, the Blog of Legal Times reports.

The case centers around former D.C. night club owner Antoine Jones, who was convicted of drug trafficking. Last August, the D.C. Court of Appeals vacated the conviction and life sentence, ruling that federal investigators violated his Fourth Amendment rights by not getting a warrant before they placed a GPS on his car. He remains in custody pending a new trial.

The deadline to file a petition before the court is April 15, the blog reported.

To read more click here.

Supreme Court to Hear Case Against Ex-Atty. John Ashcroft

John Ashcroft/doj photo

John Ashcroft/doj photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to examine an interesting issue regarding the aggressive 9/11 practices of the Bush Administration: Can a U.S. citizen who claims he was illegally detained sue former attorney general John D. Ashcroft?

The Washington Post reports that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Abdullah al-Kidd, a one-time University of Idaho football star who converted to Islam in college, can proceed with his suit that personally holds Ashcroft liable for his detention.

Ashcroft is claim immunity,  and the Obama administration, which is representing him, is asking that the suit be dismissed.

Al-Kidd was headed to Saudi Arabia to study when he arrested at Dulles International Airport in 2003, the Post reported, adding that he was held 15 nights in three states under the federal material-witness statute. He was never charged.

Al-Kidd believes his arrest was part of a bigger plan by the Bush administration to round up Muslims who did not have ties to terrorism.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Supreme Court Ruling Casts Doubt on Conviction of Enron Exec Skilling and Other Cases

The ruling by the Supreme Court could spell trouble for some federal cases. It will also change the way federal prosecutors charge certain defendants, though  some had started to look at different ways in anticipation of the ruling.

judge and gavelBy Robert Barnes
Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court Thursday restricted one of federal prosecutors’ favorite tools for pursuing corrupt politicians and self-dealing corporate chiefs, and cast doubt on the conviction of former Enron chief Jeffrey Skilling.

It also sent back to a lower court the conviction of newspaper magnate Conrad Black for a decision on whether his conviction should be overturned.

The justices were passing judgment on a federal statute used in the prosecution of both men, and many others. It makes it a crime to deprive the public or one’s employer or shareholders of the “intangible right of honest services.”

Although a favorite of federal prosecutors–it figures in the current trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich– it has been roundly criticized as being so vague as to make it impossible to know what sorts of actions are illegal. Skilling said it should be struck as unconstitutional.

To read full story click here.

Read Supreme Court Ruling

Let the Games Begin: President Officially Nominates Solicitor Gen. Elena Kagan for Supreme Court

kagan cnnBy Allan Lengel
ticklethe wire.com

Let the games begin.

With the smiling nominee flanked to his left, and his vice president to his right, President Obama on Monday morning announced the nomination of Solicitor General Elana Kagan for the Supreme Court.

Heaping superlatives upon superlatives, he called her a “superb” Solicitor General and said she embodies excellence and integrity.

She was the first woman to head up the Harvard Law School and the first female Solicitor General. It would be the first time in history three women were serving on the Supreme Court.

Some Republicans are anxious to grill her and scruitinize her liberal credentials.

So if you can’t afford to go on vacation in the earlier part of the summer, there should be plenty entertainment on C-Span as the hearings on her confirmation kick into high gear.

Kagan said she was honored to fill the seat of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who is retiring. She said she was sad her parents were not around to share her joy.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDO0W6QxsN4

Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano Getting High Marks in Administration

Taking over an agency that is still a work in progress isn’t easy. But apparently she’s getting high marks within the Administration.  Her name also pops up as a candidate for the Supreme Court or for Attorney General should Eric Holder ever leave.

Janet Napolitano/bill maher show

Janet Napolitano/bill maher show

By Anne E. Kornblut
The Washington Post

BARCELONA — Janet Napolitano stood near the water’s edge, arms crossed, gazing up at a giant X-ray contraption.

It was a sleepy Saturday in Barcelona, and the city port was deserted. But the secretary of homeland security, who had flown in for a few hours on her way to Nigeria, was confronting this elephantine tangle of metal. This stop was the second on an international tour she launched after an attempted airliner attack on Christmas nearly became the Obama administration’s Sept. 11, 2001.

Surrounded by rows of shipping containers, 42,000 of which are sent to the United States each year, Napolitano quickly summed up the magnitude of her task, which even a machine this large could hardly address.

“Is there only the one scanner for the entire port?” Napolitano asked.

Yes, her guide replied. Napolitano winced.

To read full story click here.